Weigh judicial costs before enacting law : Task Force

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New Delhi, Jun 18 (UNI) The government was today advised to start taking into account ''extra case-load'' posed by any legislation it considers enacting.

The advice came from a Task Force which gave its findings on Judicial Impact Assessment to Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj.

It came in the context of burgeoning case arrears-- estimated close to 30 million and rising-- and a 2005 Supreme Court order for such a study.

The group headed by retired Supreme Court Judge M Jagannadha Rao recommended scientifically assessing ''extra case-load'' a proposed legislation may pose.

He and other Members of the Task Force briefed mediapersons at a hurriedly called news conference.

A Task Force Member acknowledged that the recommendation is ''no magic bullet.'' Prof T C A Anant of the Indian Council of Social Science Research said it could not solve every problem of the judicial system, but it was an ''important step.'' For one, it would help remedy the utter lack of data which, he pointed out, was essential to scientific management of a judicial system-- something that has been missing all long.

The Task Force includes former National Judicial Academy Directors N R Madhava Menon and Mohan Gopal.

The report stressed estimating the extent to which a proposed law may ''add to the burden of the Courts and the expenditure required for adjudication of such cases'' and making ''adequate budgetary provision.'' It suggested setting up Judicial Impact Offices in the Capital and the States to estimate the probable number of cases and extra court expenditure Central and State legislation respectively may pose.

It suggested that such Offices be manned by experts in law, judicial administration, economics, social sciences and statistics, and consult outside experts.

Such Offices in States or Union Territories must be within the purview of the State governments but headed by Chief Justice of the High Court concerned, it said.

Among other things, the Central government must establish additional courts to implement Central laws made in respect of subjects in the Union List.

The expenditure on courts for fresh cases that may be added to the Supreme Court and the High Courts by new laws must be reflected in the Financial Memoranda attached to the Central Bills or the State Bills, it said.

It said the Planning Commission and the Finance Commission must, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, allocate sufficient funds for Judicial Administration, particularly infrastructure and expenditure on judicial officers and staff to realise access to speedy justice.

Asked whether such exercises won't further delay legislative processes which critics say are already slow, Prof Menon said they had made their recommendation bearing in mind the need without going into areas that were the function or prerogative of legislatures.

One Member suggested that such cost-consciousness may percolate to levels where it helps curb excessive litigation engaged in by the Indian government-- a practice criticised by expert after expert.

UNI MJ PD KN2058

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