Lack of debate in House causing gaps in laws: CJI

By, New Delhi
Aug 15, 2021 11:06 PM IST

The CJI also said that one of the chief reasons for the falling standards of parliamentary debates was the absence of intellectuals and professionals like lawyers in the Parliament.

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Sunday rued the “sorry state of affairs” in Parliament, where, he said, laws are being passed without constructive debates, leading to legislation with “a lot of ambiguities”.

Chief Justice of India N V Ramana. (PTI)
Chief Justice of India N V Ramana. (PTI)

Speaking at the Independence Day ceremony organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the CJI recounted the well-constructed debates that used to take place during the initial years after the independence.

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“Different laws used to be debated and deliberated upon. So, the burden of the courts in interpreting or implementing the laws used to be less. We had a clear picture (of) what the legislature wanted to tell...why they were making such a legislation. Now (there is a) sorry state of affairs...” remarked justice Ramana.

He added: “(Now) we see legislation with a lot of gaps, a lot of ambiguities in making laws. There is no clarity in laws. We don’t know for what purpose the law is made...which is creating lots of litigation, inconvenience, loss to the government and inconvenience to the public.”

The Chief Justice’s comments come even as the National Democratic Alliance government has been accused of pushing bills through Parliament without having them vetted and reviewed by committees of lawmakers.

In the first term of this government, only 27% of the bills introduced were sent to committees; thus far in the second term, only 12% of the bills have been sent to committees. Under UPA-I, 60% of the bills while 71% under UPA-II were sent to committees.

The CJI also said that one of the chief reasons for the falling standards of parliamentary debates was the absence of intellectuals and professionals like lawyers in the Parliament.

“We have seen how India’s independence struggle was led by lawyers like Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Nehru, Babu Rajendra Prasad...Unfortunately over a period of time, you know what has been happening in the parliament...This is what happens if intellectuals and professionals like lawyers are not there in the Houses,” regretted justice Ramana.

He urged the lawyers to participate actively in social life and public life. “Don’t confine yourself to your profession, earning money and living comfortably. I hope and expect good days will come to the country and you will contribute your knowledge, wisdom and experience,” said the CJI.

On Wednesday, a bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, too highlighted how the Union government was not assessing the working of a law, its societal impact, manpower and infrastructure required before notifying a new legislation.

While dealing with massive vacancies in consumer courts across the country, Justice Kaul had pulled up the Centre for not conducting a legislative impact study before it notified a new consumer protection law in July 2020 and rehauled the entire legal regime, ranging from a wider definition of “consumer,” to enhancing the monetary jurisdiction of the consumer courts at all levels.

“Once the legislative committee made these changes, what impact will it have on litigation is the study that should have been carried out. This is the irony of all legislation -- you never do legislative impact study,” the judge had commented.

Meanwhile, in his brief address, the CJI also commended the role played by the Supreme Court in protecting rights of people. “The Supreme Court has given more than what the Constitution thought of. Not only by interpreting the Constitution but also by expanding the scope and providing rights to the people taking into consideration problems of the citizenry. The Supreme Court has taken an active role and I hope and expect we will contribute more,” he said.

Justice Ramana, who is patron-in-chief of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), further hailed the law on legal services, asserting India is the only country in the world that has 75 percent of its population getting free legal aid.

Justices AM Khanwilkar and V Ramasubramanian were also present at the event, besides solicitor general Tushar Mehta and SCBA office-bearers Vikas Singh, Ardhendumauli K Prasad, Pradeep Rai, Rahul Kaushik and Meenesh K Dubey.

“An interpretation of laws require an understanding of why these laws were made and how they were planning to plug the gaps in our legal system. Deliberations in Parliament and scrutiny of laws in its committees contributes to this understanding. The debate clarifies the government’s intent and the ministers respond to the debate and clarify questions about the law that MPs may have. These deliberations in Parliament are the only means for judiciary to interpret the intent behind laws,” Chakshu Roy, head of outreach, PRS Legislative Research, said.

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