Law Minister Veerappa Moily in an exclusive interview to Bar & Bench where he speaks on legislations, Bar exam, Foreign law firms and a host of other issues!
B&B: Your vision on improvising the present state of affairs in the judiciary (reference to the recent corruption found in the judiciary which led to Chief Justice Kapadia implementing mass judicial transfers).
Veerappa Moily: We have come out with the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which will directly address and look into any perception of corruption. We have drafted this Bill very categorically and now it has been sent to the Parliament, which has referred it to the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee will give the report and if the report is pursued it will possibly come up in the next Budget-Session.
The Bill incorporates a mechanism for enquiring into individual complaints against judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court and recommends appropriate action, enables the declaration of assets and liabilities of the judges and lays down the judicial standards to be followed by the judges. All these measures will increase accountability of the judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court and further strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
B&B: Reducing the pendency of proceedings, where Government is a litigant in a case, from 15 years to 3 years. How will this take effect and why is the initiative taken for the Government, and not for every litigant?
VM: The idea is not confined to the Government litigant only, but to all the litigants. No litigation should be pending for more than three years. I have worked out a number of programmes which includes a provision of a grant of Rs. 5,000 crore (by the 13th Finance Commission) for the reforms, mainly in relation to the method and technology, and an additional provision of Rs. 935 crore for the E-Courts (computerization of courts) which will include the Paperless Courts and the Technological Courts. The idea is to make litigation speedy and cost effective and also, to make the courts technology centric where transparency becomes the highlight.
I have also operationalised the Gram Nyayalayas Act which has become operational from October 2, 2009. The basic highlight of the Gram Nyayalaya Act is that it shall dispose of the case (criminal/civil) within a period of six months, from the date of its filing. That’s the mandate of the law. We have also narrated which of the Acts are to be governed, and if the State Government’s chooses to do so they can establish Gram Nyayalayas after consultation with the respective High Court..
Ultimately, we are giving this grant for a five year period (2010-2015) and when the Courts come into full-play after the establishment of 5,000 Courts at the intermediary level of panchayat then 50 percent of the arrears will be reduced.
We have also worked out the National Litigation Policy. The Government as a State, or national litigation is occupying a major space in the judiciary and if they are reduced to at least 30 percent, then (in the least) 60 percent of the space vacated will be given to other litigants. To that extent the Governments litigation in the Courts will be reduced and the Government will be not a dominant litigant, but an efficient (thinnest) and responsible litigant. Thereby to that extent we have already put in place the National Litigation Policy where “Let the Court decide” kind of attitude will be changed. Even for the State litigations we have now mandated, that unless new operations lie under the State Litigation Policy (disclosed or discussed earlier), the grant given under the 13th Finance Commission will not be released.
Also programmes pertaining to the appointment of judges, Ad-hoc judges, Additional judges etc. all these are included, and in addition to this we are proving funds to the Subordinate judiciary for the physical infrastructure.
B&B: You have previously stated that the present “system of collegium is likely to end” because of allegations of delay and lack of transparency. What according to you is a “model” system?
VM: We are thinking on those lines, but independence of judiciary should not be jeopardized with. Whatever has to be done, should be done only with the consultation of the judiciary.
B&B: Your thoughts on the law of privacy (reference to Nira Radia tapes and Wikileaks)?
VM: Now, I think that the country needs a law on privacy. I have already drafted the first draft and things are moving on to the Home Ministry and to the Prime Minister, with regard to the need of a law of privacy.
B&B: Do you think the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) introduced by the Bar Council of India is a hasty step or a step in the right direction? Your thoughts.
VM: First of all, I don’t pass value judgments on what the Bar Council of India has done. It’s their wisdom and they have done it. Also, they have postponed the exam for a while. The Bar Examination (AIBE) is a must, I definitely agree with that idea, but how it should be operationalised is a thing which I have contemplated.
B&B: In what spheres, the legal education in India needs more focus and what steps are being initiated by the Ministry of Law to do so?
VM: I have already had a national consultation on the second phase of the legal education reforms. We have an immense problem with the faculty, especially with more than 900 plus law schools all over the country, we suffer for want of faculty. The curriculum needs to be regulated and we will have to gradually upscale and upgrade. We are also contemplating a Bill to establish five world class institutions to train the law post-graduates and provide for their research and also train and give an orientation-training to the law-faculty. With all of this, a need for a first-class faculty will be met.
We are also thinking that excellence in legal education should not be idle, it has to be upgraded. We already have 14 National Law School Universities in the country and they have stood the test of time. Now, we intend on coming up with another 14 National Law Schools, whenever the State Government empowers.
B&B: Your thoughts on the entry of foreign law firms into India. The Law Society of England and Wales visits often, to discuss their entry into India. The impact of the entry, and when do you think India will be ready to allow entry of foreign law firms?
VM: Firstly, we need to make global lawyers and at the same time we need to be prepared for the foreign lawyers. It’s a transition we need to prepare ourselves for. We need to do a lot of work and we still haven’t taken a decision. Cases are pending before the Madras High Court and the Madhya Pradesh High Court and we are yet to take a view on the entry of foreign law firms and decision will only be taken after a due consultation with the Bar Council of India. I can’t say anything on the estimated time.
B&B: Terrorism: With reference to terrorist attacks in India, your thoughts on having Fast-track Terror Courts.
VM: Yes, I’m in for Fast-track Terror Courts because in terror attacks, witnesses are very important and to delay the process may result in witnesses not remembering or them being unavailable. All circumstances have to be taken into account and unless you don’t have these cases fast-tracked, you won’t get the people who can give evidence.
B&B: How did you choose law as a career?
VM: In fact I don’t know since when, but I always wanted to be a lawyer. Even when I was in college, my target was to become a lawyer and to fight for justice. When I was a small child of around 4 years of age, I was sitting on my mother’s lap and we were the agricultural tenants and at that point of time there was no protection to the agriculture tenants and the Landlord came along with the Police and wanted to throw us out and (at that time my mother tells me) I raised my hand and said that we need to fight. That’s what my mother has told me. Thereafter it is within my blood to always fight for justice.
B&B: An Author: What made you pen down and write the Great Exploration of the Ramayana?
VM: I have been a writer throughout. My mother has been my inspiration and she being illiterate use to wake me up at 4:30 every morning, everyday and encourage me to write. Then again in the night she use to not allow me to sleep and even in chimney-light as at that time there was no electricity, she use to encourage me to write and she use to sit with me throughout my writing. That’s how it’s become habitual now, and now after Ramayana -which was practically inspired by my wife, as she wanted to write on Lakshman as a focus and ultimately that epic poem came out. My wife is my partner in this, because after I hand-write in Kannada, it is fed into the computer and my wife is the first person to scrutinize and correct it.
After finishing Ramayana I again had some time with me during the mornings, as the Government consultation work I do in the office, I clear 99 percent of the work the same day and never carry work, home. So presently I’m dictating my English book called “Unleashing India” (three parts have already been published- one on agriculture, second on water and third on electricity) on HRD and how our country can be the super power after 25 to 30, taking advantage of the demographic dividend.
I’m also writing another epic poem on Draupadi and the title is “Shrimudi Parikranam”. This is how I go on writing, it is an unstoppable journey.
B&B: Your Mentor?
VM: Earlier my mentor was my mother, now it’s my wife.
B&B: How do you maintain you work-life balance?
VM: If I don’t start writing in the morning or at night, I will not get energized. Writing is my source of energy and inevitably I have to write. That’s why when I come to work at 9:00 am and sometimes go back at 7:30 or 8:00 pm, I’m still energized and very fresh. I need work and look forward to work. Work acts as a fuel for me to get energized, and fatigue will not come. Every morning I do yoga for 45 minutes and also walk, so I never get fatigued.
B&B: How do you unwind? Hobbies and interests other than law.
VM: I enjoy reading and like spending sometime chatting with my wife, children and grand-children.