Plan to resolve intra-govt disputes sans courts
Given how 35-40% of all litigation in the country’s courts is between various government departments, the government has done well to try and come out with a strategy to fix this. Law minister DV Sadananda Gowda told The Economic Times that he plans to put in place a policy to nip this in the bud, to ensure that such cases don’t reach the courts, but are settled through arbitration. To begin with, the law ministry already told all government departments to deploy at least one specialist lawyer to deal with such cases—in other words, in much the same way as arbitration cases, an attempt will be made to resolve intra-government disputes. In the normal course, mere deployment of specialist law officers may not be of much help as the office would be inclined to toe the department’s line, but with the government clearly outlining that the officers’ mandate is to see that minimum number of cases reach the courts, it can be expected that the situation will be very different.
The other plan, as outlined by finance minister Arun Jaitley, is to bring India’s arbitration law on a par with those in the mature economies. The ordinance—cleared by the government earlier, but withdrawn quickly—tried to put strict timelines for courts deciding on a challenge to an arbitration award, and for arbitral courts to dispose of matters. There are serious issues like misuse of interim protection that Section 9 provides to delay cases, and of the government not implementing arbitration awards. In addition, there are other delays by even the government—it took three years to put the arbitration panel in place in one Reliance case. The government has to address various concerns raised on the provisions of the arbitration ordinance so that it can be promulgated quickly and turned into a law at the earliest.