Reform is the need of the hour

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Dear Madam,

I broadly agree with many of the views expressed in your article on law enforcement (IBLJ, July/August 2009). I have a few additional thoughts.

The legal system is very slack and slow paced and judicial reforms have not kept pace with economic reforms in this country. The setting up of tribunals to handle matters relating to debt recovery, company law and intellectual property have reduced the burden to some extent on the courts, but the knowledge and competence of some of the persons heading these tribunals has been disappointing. Many of the judges are not familiar with modern-day complex financial instruments and transaction structures and the contemporary developments in global commerce and finance. It would be a good idea to include some training in these areas in programmes conducted by the National Judicial Academy and the state-level judicial academies. It would be a good idea for senior corporate lawyers from law firms to conduct live case studies in these judicial academies to familiarize the participants with all current developments.

The single largest challenge facing the legal system is the reduction of the time frame for the resolution of disputes. There is a general feeling among members of the public that delays in the legal system benefit the litigation practitioners and that this is the reason why they resist any attempt at reforms. It is not rare for clients to opt to settle disputes by making substantial compromises, rather than approaching the courts, due to the lack of faith in the courts to deliver judgments within a reasonable time frame.

This is not a happy situation. To attract more foreign investment in India we need to provide a climate where the investors should be confident that they will be able to bind counter parties to contracts and enforce contracts within a reasonable time frame. Conscious efforts will have to be made by both the bar and the bench if the situation is to be improved. Currently, it is very easy to get an adjournment in legal proceedings and the courts and tribunals in India need to be very firm about rejecting requests for adjournments and making exceptions only in the event of any natural calamity, accident or death affecting one of the parties or their lawyers. Strict time frames need to be enforced for filing pleadings and serving them on the opponents, and for commencing and completing arguments. Apart from this, heavy monetary penalties need to be imposed on parties which do not abide by the time frames so as to work as a deterrent.

In short, judicial reforms are the need of the hour and the courts need to drive home the message to the litigants and the lawyers that they mean business.

Bomi F Daruwala
Partner
Vaish Associates
Mumbai