By Upendra Prasad
For the last one week advocates of Delhi District Courts are on strike. They are agitating for the passage of Delhi High Court (Amendment) Act from Parliament in its winter session itself. They are going to demonstrate at the Parliament House and they are threatening to disrupt the traffic movements of Delhi if the Bill is not passed immediately.
Spokesman of the agitating advocates, Vinod Sharma, President of Saket Bar Association, told IPA that there was not any genuine reason to further delay the legislation, which is intended to help the Delhi High Court to unburden itself and people of Delhi to have early verdicts of their civil cases.
All these demonstrations are taking place in the National Capital of Delhi to press for a very small reform of our legal system. If the proposed Bill is passed, the Delhi District Courts will become entitled to hear the civil suits involving an amount up to Rs 2 crore. At present the limit is Rs 20 lakh. A civil suit involving more than Rs 20 Lakh is heard in Delhi High Court. This amount was fixed long ago. Delhi High Court itself felt need to raise the limit of this amount and its full bench recommended to the Central Government to make a legislation to raise the limit up to Rs 2 Crore for the civil law cases to be heard in District Courts themselves.
The Central government moved in that direction and it introduced a Bill in the Rajya Sabha for that purpose. The Bill named Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, was referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament after its introduction in the last February. Standing Committee gave its green signal for the passage of the Bill and sent it back to the Parliament on 28th of November last. It raised the hope of the legal fraternity that the Bill would be passed in the current winter session, but due to some mysterious reasons, the Bill did not find its place in the agenda of the present winter session of Parliament.
This non-inclusion is the reason for the agitation of the advocates associated with the Bar Associations of the all six district courts of Delhi and there is a long drawn agitation on a very minor issue.
Narendra Modi government has been voted in power with the hope of real change coming to political and parliamentary processes. But, the present regime is not fulfilling the aspirations of people. In fact, the system is failing on almost all fronts to fulfil even the minimum needs. The Anna movement was just an expression of the anger of people against the system: they wanted real change and Narendra Modi capitalises on their resentment to get majority of his party in the Lok Sabha, which was almost unthinkable for many people before the declaration of the results.
We need change in almost all aspects of the governance. Change is legal system is one of them and perhaps it is the most important field, where change or reform is requires on urgent basis. Without reforming this system, we cannot expect improvement in the working of the other areas of governance. We are bound to lose the fight against corruption and criminalisation, if we continue with the present legal system, which is burdened with the crore of pending cases. We are governed by the rule of law; the present legal system has emerged as the main hindrance against the laws ruling the land, where breaking of laws has become the rule and adhering to laws has become an exception. Corruption breeds corruption and lawlessness breeds lawlessness. This vicious circle can be broken only with the unbroken political will of the government.
But how strong the political will of our political class, in general, and present government in particular can be seen in the present agitation of the advocates of Delhi District Courts, who are afraid that despite the recommendation of Delhi High Court and approval of the Standing Committee of Parliament, the present government may not go forward for the proposed amendment in Delhi High Court Act. This kind of their suspicion is a bad commentary on the functioning of Modi government, which claims to act fast. After the approval of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the government should have moved the Bill and passed it without any delay paving for the amendment of the Act facilitating the Delhi District Courts to take up the Civil Cases involving he amount of Rs 2 crore.
This legislation is not going to solve the menace which is infecting our legal system. It is a small step, but the government is not showing its enthusiasm to go for it. In fact the present system has created many vested interests and these interests do not want to change it, because it prospers on the status quo. With new legislation all civil cases involving amount up to Rs 2 crore would get transferred in Delhi District Courts from Delhi High Courts and High Court advocates may lose some of their clients. Naturally, they may have been lobbying with the government to stall the amendment. When Delhi High Court was hearing this case of raising limit, even then the High Court advocates were putting resistance. But change cannot be stalled by the individual concerns and it has to take into account the overall interests of the society. The proposed amendment is in the interests of the Delhi High Courts as well as the general public, who got involved in the civil suits. The proposed amendment will unburden the Delhi High Court to some extent and it can expedite other pending cases quickly. People involved in such cases would have options to file or to be heard in the six District Courts and expect early verdict with less loss of time and money.
Not only the Delhi High Courts, but all the High Courts of the country should be unburdened by similar amendments. But, the government seems to be pulling back its legs in the proposed Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, which does not behove well for Narendra Modi, who has earned a reputation to take decisions quickly in people interests. The agitation of Delhi advocates is further causing discomforts for the people and the work is paralysed in District Courts.
It is not easy to fight the vested interests, who find solace in the status quo. If a minor reform is proving to be so difficult for Narendra Modi government, how can people expect an overall change of reforms in our legal system to serve the people better? It is a test case for our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who has aroused the expectations of people that he can deliver them better days (achchhe din). (IPA Service)