The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, once ratified by 50 percent of the states and cleared by the President, will put in place the new mechanism to select Supreme Court and high court judges.

The Constitution amendment bill requires ratification by at least 50 percent of the state legislatures. Goa, Rajasthan Tripura and Gujarat legislatures have already ratified the bill.

Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda hopes that since winter session of state legislatures is now lined up, the required number of ratifications would come soon. He has already written to the chief ministers for ratification of the bill.

Parliament had in August cleared a Constitution amendment bill that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system, which has been under severe criticism.

The process of ratification takes up to eight months. After ratification, government will send it to the President for his assent.

The bill will make way for the setting up of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 high courts.     

Passage of the bill, the biggest achievement of the Law Ministry in 2014, will pave the way for replacing the collegium system of judges choosing judges.

The bill will grant Constitutional status to the NJAC and its composition. Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC.

In a bid to streamline the judicial system, the Narendra Modi government is planning to implement National Litigation Policy, which was launched by the UPA government in 2010 but could not be implemented.

The NDA government is working on it to reduce the burden of the courts for better deliverance. The policy will help all the Union ministries and departments define types of cases to be pursued in courts and those which need to be dropped after review.

The National Litigation Policy aims at reducing the burden of the courts and will ensure that good cases are won and bad cases are not needlessly pursued. The Law Ministry is in consultation with other ministries to formalise the policy and implement it at the earliest.

Along with the National Litigation Policy that the government plans to bring, the ministries and departments are being encouraged to amend laws to reduce court cases.

In this direction, the Finance Ministry is likely to amend the Negotiable Instruments Act to reduce burden on courts with regard to litigations related to cheque bounce cases.

The Transport Ministry is also likely to amend the Motor Vehicles Act to reduce litigations related to challans.     

Though there are no official figures available as of now, Law Ministry believes that government is a litigant in 46 percent of the cases in higher judiciary. As in 2010, 57,179 cases were pending in the Supreme Court and 42,17,903 were pending in the 24 High Courts at the end of 2011.

The proposed policy, the Law Ministry hopes, will be in place early next year.

The Law Ministry is planning to amend Arbitration and Conciliation Act in the Budget session of Parliament to make the country an International hub for Arbitration.

Gowda feels that in order to achieve the objective to make the country hub for arbitration certain basic system has to put in place like reducing the time taken in deciding the disputes and certain modification of the process adopted and legal sanctity to such process.

Clearing backlogs is another area of concern which will be the focus of the Law Ministry in 2015.

According to data available with the Apex Court, the number of pending cases with the Supreme Court is 64,919 as on December 1, 2014.
The data available for the 24 high courts and lower courts up to the year ending 2013 showed pendency of 44.5 lakh and whopping 2.6 crore, respectively.

Of the over 44 lakh cases pending in the 24 high courts of the country, 34,32,493 were civil and 10,23,739 criminal.     

On the issue of long-pending electoral reforms, the government has already gone on record to say that radical changes would be made in the electoral system but any decision would be taken only after the Law Commission submits its report on the matter.

Among the crucial issues under active consideration of the government was holding elections to Parliament and state assemblies together.

Other crucial issues pertaining to electoral reforms being considered by the Law Commission include state funding of elections, communalism in politics, negative voting, preparation of electoral rolls and disclosure of criminal antecedents of candidates.

The year gone by also saw the government committing itself to implementing the controversial Uniform Civil Code as per the spirit of the Constitution. It said it will start at the earliest the process wider consultations for a consensus.

"I assure the House to move forward on the Uniform Civil Code and it is our duty to implement it...We will move forward as mandated by the Constitution," the Law Minister said in the Rajya Sabha recently.

The Uniform Civil Code covers marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.

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