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Corpse of National Litigation Policy re-animated yet again by new law minister with good intentions

With the objective to reduce its dependency on courts and avoid unnecessary litigation involving its ministries and departments, the government was formulating the National Litigation Policy (NLP), Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda said today.

“The proposed policy has been sent to various ministries for their feedback and after we receive the same, the policy could be placed before the cabinet,” Gowda told the media here about a policy initiative that was launched by Congress then-law minister Veerappa Moily in 2010 to much fanfare, briefly resurrected by his successor Kapil Sibal as it continued collecting dust in cabinets largely unimplemented.

The minister hoped to place the NLP for deliberations before parliament in its upcoming winter session.

Describing pendency of cases before the courts as the “core issue”, Gowda said the aim of the NLP would be to eliminate unnecessary litigation between the various government ministries and departments and focus on “alternate dispute resolution” (ADR) through mediation and conciliation.

Gowda said the ADR would speed up the disposal of cases and urged the high courts to encourage judicial officers to resolve civil disputes through mediation and reconciliation.

The minister said the government would give full support for providing the infrastructure for setting up mediation centres by the 13th Finance Commission.

Addressing the priority areas to tackle pendency of cases, the minister said amendments in the Motor Vehicles Act and Negotiable Instruments Act, Arbitration and Conciliation Act were being taken up.

Gowda said commercial divisions would be set up in courts for adjudication of commercial disputes. However, he said they were awaiting a report from the Law Commission on this.

Four states have ratified the constitutional amendment for setting up a National Judicial Appointment Commission for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary, he said.

Gowda said he has spoken to the chief ministers to speed up the ratification process.

He said the ministry was considering the issue of raising the retirement age of high court judges from 62 years to 65 years.

The minister also said the strength of high court judges across the country would be increased from the existing 906 to 1,112. The Chief Justice of India has already approved the move.

Gowda said high courts would be set up in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram while separate high courts for Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura have already been established.

Gowda dealt with several issues during his interaction, including amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act to incorporate irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce. The bill will be reintroduced in the winter session of parliament.

The bill to amend the law was moved in the last Lok Sabha but it lapsed with its dissolution.

Gowda said that for the repeal of obsolete and redundant laws, 36 Original Acts, 287 Amendments Act and 892 Appropriation Acts have been identified and further identification was under process by the Law Commission.

Replacement Bills for Coal Mines (Special Provision Ordinance) and Textiles Undertakings (Nationalisation) Laws are also proposed to be taken up in the ensuing parliament session, he said.

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