Reduced government litigation, smarter legislation and clearer government policies can help stay pending in court

In the presence of the Prime Minister and Chief State Ministers, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana presented what was nothing less than a manifesto on good government practices to mitigate the crisis of expectation of the justice system. CJI Ramana was able to demonstrate that the government, as the biggest litigant, needs to clean up its act. He proceeded from the bottom up, from panchayats and civic bodies to tehsildars and other tax officials, from policing in thanas to service laws that trigger disputes over postings and transfers, to point out how non-execution and lack of respect for constitutional due process trigger numerous disputes. .

The CJI then moved to the next level of governance. Its list of failings was long: hasty enactment of laws by legislatures, often without discussion, frivolous litigation by various ministries, deliberate inaction by governments in implementing judicial decisions, shifting the burden of decision-making to the courts, slow the judicial appointment process. , and delay in upgrading the judicial infrastructure. The country’s senior politicians who govern at the Center and in the States and who return from the conference with the judges in their offices have a constitutional responsibility to redress this drift.

Judges can only interpret the law; in matters of governance, the Constitution empowers the political executive and the bureaucracy, which is the permanent executive, to make laws, frame procedures and loosen the purse strings. The CJI’s observation that land disputes account for 66% of ongoing disputes provides governments with an area for intervention as clearer policies can resolve some of these disputes. Governments must also confront the fear of prosecution that haunts officials and decision makers at all levels. This is one of the reasons administrators find it safer to go to court than to settle a dispute quickly.

Poorly crafted laws that criminalize alcohol and marijuana use, dissent, teenage sexuality, interfaith marriages or increased compliance burdens on corporations and countless politically motivated cases across India are bad publicity for governance and constitutionalism. These cases breed corruption, which hits the poor hardest, in addition to creating a neta-babu-cop bond that is hard to dislodge. If government departments can ensure justice for citizens by following due process, the courts would not be overburdened and fail in their oversight functions. It’s not a chicken and egg problem.


This article appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of the Times of India.