The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy recently released a briefing book titled Law in Numbers: Evidence-Based Approaches to Legal Reform. Through this publication, VCLP has put endeavoured to show how empirical data can be used to target specific areas of law which call for reform.
To this end, they have put together statistics on five broad categories: The Judiciary, The Financial Sector, Crime and Society, The Legislature and Environment & Human Capabilities.
Here we analyse five findings that merit a closer look.
1. High Courts require additional benches
After finding out the population over which High Courts exercise jurisdiction, VCLP has come to the conclusion that additional high courts and benches of existing courts are the need of the hour. For example, the Allahabad High Court exercises jurisdiction over more than 15 crore people, is surely overburdened.
To remedy this issue, they have called for separate HC benches for the Western and Eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, it was concluded that a bench of the Calcutta High Court in North Bengal would increase access to justice to litigants in the area.
It also calls for a rethink on the jurisdiction exercised by the High Courts of Bombay and Madhya Pradesh, and is in favour of two separate courts for the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, a move that has been in the pipeline for quite some time.
2. 36% of the last 100 retired SC judges are appointed by the government
The briefing book also considers the issue of post-retirement jobs for former judges as a threat to judicial independence.
It finds that 36% of the last one hundred retirees of the Supreme Court are appointed exclusively by the central and state governments.
It also finds that a significant majority of post-retirement appointments takes place within one year of the judges’ attaining superannuation, adding more fuel to the ‘cooling off’ period debate.
VCLP has made a few suggestions to curb the incidence of this practice, including increasing the retirement age of Supreme Court judges to 70 years, and increasing pensions of judges to match their last drawn salary.
3. 72% of the Central Government’s SLPs deal with taxation
The study has also crunched some numbers regarding government litigation and aims to pinpoint the primary subject of the biggest litigant in the country. To this, they analysed 5000 random SLPs filed by the central and state governments in 2014. This fact renders the study indicative, rather than conclusive.
Out of the 857 SLPs analysed, 432 of them were filed by the Centre, out of which 392 are classified into specific categories. 282 of these (around 72%) are related to direct and indirect taxation issues.
Further, the study notes that out of the 173 total SLPs dismissed, 60 of them are related to taxation. 65% of these SLPs were dismissed summarily.
To quote from the briefing book,
“This high rate of summary dismissal, despite the absence of the opposing party’s advocate suggests that these taxation SLPs were filed as a matter of course, without weighing the merits of the individual case.”
4. It takes an average of 261 days for enforcement of a law
Under the section titled ‘The Legislature’, VCLP has aimed to find out how much time a law enacted by Parliament takes to come into force. After analysing a set of 44 laws that came into existence between 2006 and 2015, it was found that the average number of days that elapsed between a law receiving Presidential assent and coming into force was 261 days.
Some laws, it was found, could take up to three years to come into force; for instance the Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act of 2007 took a whopping 1,128 to be enforced after Presidential assent.
As regards the time taken to place a law before a House of Parliament, it was found that the time limit of 15 days prescribed for the laying of rules was adhered to for only 34% of the rules laid before each House.
5. An outbreak of State-level ordinances
Though the government’s ordinance-making power under Articles 123 and 213 of the Constitution are supposed to be used only in extraordinary situations, it is found that they are “a frequent and popular tool of governance in states”.
To back that statement, the study finds that a total of 553 ordinances have been promulgated by state governments between 2010 and 2015. The most common subject is the setting up of universities and technical institutions, or amending provisions relating to the functioning of such institutions.
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