The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi shrugs off onus

New Delhi, Oct. 17: The Centre has adopted a hands-off attitude towards the row over Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s Dussehra speech, in which he allegedly exhorted Hindus to form suicide squads to counter Islamic terrorism. The Maharashtra government has registered a non-bailable case under Section 153A of the IPC against him for “promoting communal hatred”.

Union law minister K. Jana Krishnamurthi today indicated that the Centre will watch how the state government “handles” Thackeray rather than act on the video and audio footages containing his alleged inflammatory speech that the state is preparing to send.

Queried on the tapes, Krishnamurthi shot back: “Which department (did the state government send the tapes to)... there are hundreds of departments in the Central government.... It is for the state to handle him (Thackeray)... whether it (state government) wants Pota or IPC to be invoked....”

The minister refused to elaborate on the issue, saying he was addressing the media to highlight the NDA government’s achievements in the past three years.

Earlier, he avoided the issue of electoral reforms though it is one of the major topics concerning his ministry. Krishnamurthi refused to speak on the matter, saying it was still with the Supreme Court.

After two all-party meets rejected the apex court’s directive that candidates should disclose their criminal track record, educational background and assets and liabilities, the Centre issued an Ordinance.

The decree has been challenged in the Supreme Court by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

Krishnamurthi said: “Let the judgment come and we will certainly comply with the directions of the Supreme Court.”

Criminal jurisprudence, especially amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) similar to those suggested to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), will be among his ministry’s important future plans, he said.

The changes were necessary as over two lakh people were languishing in jails without facing trial for years. “For them, over Rs 416 crore is being spent on courts. This money is a waste. Their human rights are violated,” he said.

The minister unveiled another major plan: “alternate dispute redress forums” like arbitration and conciliation for civil cases. About 70 per cent pending civil cases were of the nature of “question of fact” rather than “question of law”.

“For question of facts, what can courts do'” Krishnamurthi asked.

“We propose to activate arbitration for such cases so that the pending cases are taken away from the civil courts throughout the country.” Litigants do not want to go for arbitration because arbitrators have to be paid every day. “We will introduce a system so that the arbitrator’s fee is taken care of and the litigants feel free to go to them and get redressed,” the minister said.

Stating that the entry of multinationals was a reality, Krishnamurthy said: “When they (MNCs) come, they also bring their laws. So we have to not just upgrade but top-grade our legal system.”

He said financial constraints in almost all states was behind non-implementation of the Supreme Court directive to increase judges’ strength from the present 13 judges per million population to 50 judges per million. He said a suggestion has come, advocating that the judge ratio be fixed on the basis of “work load:judge” rather than “population:judge”.

He also said the NDA government was considering a recommendation of the Constitution Review Commission to appoint a National Judicial Commission to appoint and promote judges and hear complaints against judges.

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