Chief Justice of India Justice J S Khehar has written to the Finance Ministry to provide details of major tax cases pending with the Supreme Court, so that the decision in one case could have a cascading effect in disposing of several others.
Listing out initiatives taken by the apex court in reducing the pendency of cases, he said “so far initiatives that we have taken, we have tried to collect data even from the Finance Ministry relating to cases where, on tax issues, where there could be a cascading effect.
“So I wrote to the Secretary of the department asking him whether he can point out the cases where there is a cascading effect so that we decide one and lot of other cases of different levels can be disposed off.”
Justice Khehar was speaking last night at a book release function at Rashtrapati Bhavan, which was attended by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The CJI also said he had asked the finance ministry to find out whether there were certain cases which could have major financial impact so that, “rather than the matter pending in the courts, it will decide whether the government needs that money and gets it immediately, or doesn’t get it. One way or the other.”
In a polite snub to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Justice Khehar said the judiciary was the body which passed orders and was functioning within its “boundaries”.
“There is a difference of perception between the Union Law Minister and Union Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley). I don’t blame either. The reason is that I do not know what to say — Are you on the wrong side, or are we on the wrong side?
“Probably you are on the wrong side because it’s us passing the order and that is the unfortunate part and sometimes it is not a pleasant experience to have an order set aside or altered or changed or modified. But for that, we assure you that we will keep within our boundary,” he said.
Earlier, Prasad had said that all institutions of democracy — Executive, Legislative and Judiciary — should function within their limits.
“While upholding the majesty of our courts and independence of judiciary as integral to India’s governance, which cannot be tinkered by any which ways, we also need to acknowledge that legislation must be left to those who are elected by the people to make such legislations and governance must be left to those elected to govern by the people of India,” the Law Minister said at the function.
He said independence of judiciary is the basic structure undoubtedly, but “separation of power is also a basic structure”.
“It is the job of the executive to formulate and execute, the job of the legislator to legislate and the duty of the judiciary to interpret so that it becomes sacrosanct. How they have to work in symphony and harmony, is the job that the judiciary needs to find. That’s how I think that our Constitutional governance must function,” Prasad said.
The Chief Justice also spoke about an alternative redressal mechanism to reduce pendency of cases in various courts and said “we can deal with a little bit of our arrears if there is a re-look at litigations pending with us at all levels of all courts.”
He said the national litigation policy was formulated by the government and it was expected that some kind of control would come around on the litigations that come from the government.
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“Since the government is the largest stakeholder with us, obviously the consequences of failed litigations is largest for the government. So nobody can grudge the government for raising the claim.
“But it seems that we need a further look at it and I am sure that the government will consciously examine this issue”, he said and suggested a mechanism where an independent agency, may be having some retired judges or eminent persons, to take a second call on whether to go for and appealor not.
“And if we can just reduce 10 per cent of these litigations, then we will be the long way ahead. Again, please don’t take me wrong, it is not a matter of any criticism,” he said.
The CJI said the judiciary was with the government “arm in arm” but pointed out that “it’s a new world, it’s a commercial world and the commercial world doesn’t brook delays and when you (government) say we (courts) delay, I can’t say we don’t delay.
“We do delay but there are issues by which we can resolve these delays” and minimise them if matters are decided outside court by alternative modes, Justice Khehar said.
“Why should we not push mediation? In case of government dispute, why cant we choose option of mediation. As a try, may be we may succeed and may be we may not, but there is a great success of mediation in this country,” he said.
In commercial world, arbitration has a big role to play. “We must have an international standard arbitral tribunal and our international centre for alternative dispute redressal is now moving forward,” he said.
Justice Khehar said his predecessor Justice T S Thakur had taken charge of it so that people who came to India from abroad could “rely on us for arbitration in our country rather than us going to Singapore and Malaysia and the likes.”
“I am happy to tell you that my discussion with the Union Law Minister on this have been very encouraging and he has expressed all support to us on this issue as well,” the CJI said.