Law is dynamic which changes with time as per the practices followed bythe people of the society. The Law Commission of India is a policy legal institute of the Government of India which performs research and advocacy work concerning topics of law and gives its recommendations for the changes that are required to be brought to the existent legal provisions. Since the time of independence itself, the law reforms have been navigated by the great legal minds like Justice H.J Kania, Mr. M.C Setalvad, Justice P.N. Bhagwati and so on. The credit of bringing reforms in the Indian Judicial and Legal systemis attributed to the judges as well as the presiding officers of the Law Commission of India. However, since Law Commission is non-statutory body constituted by the Government of our country, the recommendations provided by it are subject to the approval of the Government itself.The critical approach of the commission against the policies of the executive provides a check on the tyrannical actions of the government. The question thus arises, whether after 74 years of Independence, Law Commission has been effective in bringing successful reforms in the Indian Judicial System or not.
COMPOSITION AND FUNCTIONING
The Law Commission of India is an executive body with no independent status. It is constituted by the government of India every so often. The first Law Commission of Independent India was established in 1955 which was headed by Mr. M.C. Setalvad and continued for three years. Recently the Union Cabinet approved the constitution of the 22nd Law Commission of India.
The commissionis traditionally headed by the former judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of the High Court. Itincludes legal experts to promote justice in society. It has four full-time members andthe legal and legislative secretaries of the Ministry of Law and Justice are its ex-officio members. The staff is divided into two partsi.e., the research panel undertaking research for recommending reforms in the functioning of the Judiciary,and the secretarial staff for the administrative work.
ROLE OF THE LAW COMMISSION TO ENSURE LEGAL REFORM
The Law Commission of India plays significant role in reforming the law andensuring public interest. It has a dual role inacting as an advisory body to government as well critiquing the non-beneficial policies formulated by it.In case of any faulty public policy, it points out the defective part and recommends ways to correct it. However, such recommendations are subject to approval by the Government. Also, the liberty of taking up matters on its own motion acts as an additional beneficial factor in cases where there is no one to raise objection on the arbitrary laws.
CONTRIBUTION OF DIFFERENT LAW COMMISSIONS IN JUDICIAL SYSTEM
With ever-changing dynamics of law, the Law Commission of India, has cited several loopholes in the judicial as well as legal system and recommended various reforms for it. There are some of the major areas of improvementsuggested by the Law Commission of India in its post-independence works.
Delay in delivery of justice by courts
As it is often said that “Justice delayed is justice denied”, thus, delay in delivery of judgementsleads to a miscarriage of justice. However, the speedy trial does not mean hurried, not well thought dispensation of justice without considering the provisions and the legal merits of the case.
In this regard the 14th report of the Law commission of India 1958, 27th report of Law Commission of India 1964, the 58th Report of 1974 as well as the 121st report of 1987 have hinted towards the delay in delivery of justice by courts and have provided various recommendations to overcome this issuelike giving more power to magisterial courts, quick disposal of criminal and civil cases within a limited time frame, Increasing strength of Judicial officers, encouraging alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms to solve the industrial disputes, increasing retirement age of judges, constituting a National Judicial Service Commission for the appointment of subordinate court judges, etc.
High pendency of cases in the Indian courts
The high arrears of cases lying in the courts acts as one of major hurdles in serving justice to the litigants. According to the recent reports of National Judicial Data Grid over 3.5 Crore cases are pending across courts in India. Several Law Commission reports have pointed towards this problem. The Law Commission of India in 77th report in 1978, 124th report in 1988, 221st report in 2009, and 229th report in 2009 haveproposed various means to reduce the arrears of cases in the lower courts, High Courts and the Apex court.
Introduction of the Fast-track Courts
The high pendency of the cases and delay in Justice urged the Law Commission to endorse setting up of Fast track Courts in the years 2003 and 2009. The 213th report of 2008 recommended setting up of magisterial courts with advance technological facilities. The 11th finance commission of India recommended to set up 1700 fast track courts for swift disposal of cases. However, due to lack of only 664of such courtsare functional across India currently.
Lack of legal and administrative staff
The inadequacy of law officers as well as the administrative staff has been shown asan important flaw that affects the delivery of a speedy fair trial. The Law Commission of India in its 27th report of 1964 and 213th report of 2008 has drawn the attention towards the lack of judicial officers which is concerned with the number cases pending with the courts of India. The recommendations made to tackle the above-mentioned problem are to increase the strength of judicial officers and to upgrade their pay scale. In addition to this the Law Commission also suggested to appoint more staff in the courts to efficiently keep track with the administrative work.
Establishment of an additional bench of Supreme Court
The 11th Law Commission’s 125th report of 1988 proposed to set up a regional bench of the Supreme Court of India citing that such kinds of courts were far away for the litigant belonging to the north-eastern and southern states of India. Therefore, setting up the regional branches in the east, west, and southern parts of India which shall be a cost and time-efficient method for theselitigants. This recommendation was initially rejected by the government. However, recently, in September 2019 the Vice President of India had made recommendations to the Law Commission of India to bifurcate the Top court into two partsi.e., the main constitutional bench atDelhi and other appeal benches to be set up in four regions throughout India.
Encourage dispute resolution through the ADR mechanism
The Law Commission of India in its 213th report of 2008 and the 221st report of 2009, recommended for encouragingthe courts and parties to opt for alternate dispute resolution methods for faster disposal of civil cases viaarbitration, mediation and conciliation. The commission also proposed the setting up Lok Adalat’s and initiating administrative courts in the village and block levels to settle the cases swiftly.
Reforms in the criminal justice system
The Law Commission of India in its 141st report of 1991 mentioned that the delay in justice is caused by the poor administration of the criminal justice system where the cases are dismissed only on the ground of non-appearance of the complainant.The commission based on their research made recommendationsin order toprovide a speedy, cost-effective, and fair trial to the people so that they can maintain their faith in the justice system.
The recommendations sought by the Law Commission in the procedural criminal laws are (i) Amendment in section 256of CrPC where the case can be restored wherein the accused has been acquitted, for the reasonable cause of non-appearance of the complainant and for the application of which the commission suggested introduction of a new Section 482A. (ii) Further it said that there should be re-examination and redefinition of the cases under various laws in such order such that the crimes that take a long time and more cost shall be dealt quickly at different levels. (iii) It also suggested that plea bargaining should be introduced to dispense the large number of pending criminal cases.
NEED TO STRENGTHEN POWER OF THE LAW COMMISION
The Law Commission of India serves a national duty. Despite the most significant contributions made by the commission, it is facing several issues in its smooth functioning which needs to be properly addressed as soon as possible.
The Independence of Law Commission: The Law Commission of India is the think tank of the government of India working diligently towards the development of the law and society at large. However, despite its sincere efforts it neither has any definite composition, definite appointment eligibility for the chairperson, secretary, or other members. Nor does it have any fixed functions. All these decisions are subjected to the discretion of the government. Being such a significant policy body working to reform the legal provisions and judicial system the Government needs to provide it anindependent statutory status for setting the regulation for appointment and function of its panel members.
Execution of the recommendations: The application of the recommendations provided by the Law Commission presents a major issue. Despite the best efforts, the percentage implementation of the recommendations stands just 45 % where the research has qualitatively improved in comparison to the earlier no-internet times. The Government needs address this problem so that the well-researched suggestions can be implemented in the legal and judicial system.
The Law Commission of Independent India which was established in the year 1955 has been working sincerely for the past 66 years towards the reformation of the Indian Judicial System. The Commission has madevarious importantcontributions which include recommendation so the Ministry of Law and justice, amendments in different legal provisions including the Criminal Procedure Code, Civil procedure Code, and Indian Evidence Act, etc. However, it has been facing hurdles in its working under the shadow of the government which hampersthe transparency in functioning as well as appointment of its panel members. The government has always been facing allegations of favouritism in the appointment of its Chairman and the Secretary members. Moreover, the lack of financial funds has also posed a challengehampering the progress and smooth work of the commission. The Law Commission has been efficient in its working as far as its aim of reforming the legal provisions is concerned and therefore, it is the need of the hour that all these above listed issues are resolved for the a more effective functioning of the commission.