He told the media the three new criminal laws would be enforced on 1 July as planned, and that his ministry would focus on arbitration to increase ease of doing business.

Meghwal is one of five ministers of state with independent charge in Prime minister Narendra Modi’s new Cabinet, and makes a comeback to the ministry of law and justice for his second stint. 

Meghwal met senior officials in the department of legal affairs, the legislative department, and the department of justice after he addressed the media about the law ministry’s plan for the first 100 days after coming into power.

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The law minister said he had signed a policy paper on the long-awaited National Litigation Policy, which would include the opinions of all stakeholders including litigators and litigants.

The policy would address issues of litigants such as high legal costs, lack of access to legal appeals, and pendency of lawsuits in courts. The Union government is a litigant in numerous lawsuits before the Supreme Court.

“His approval of the national litigation policy is consistent with the long standing position of the government to try to reduce litigation where the state is involved and aligned to the economic survey,” said Arjun Goswami, policy director, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, a top law firm.

To be sure, numerous state litigation policies have existed since 2010. Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal and Maharashtra are among states that have carved out their own litigation policies till date. They focus on difficulties in litigation involving state governments, and try to improve legal infrastructure.

Also Read: Arjun Ram Meghwal replaces Kiren Rijiju as Law Minister

Meghwal also addressed change in criminal laws

Meghwal also addressed the change in the nation’s criminal laws. He said there would be no hindrance in enforcing the three new criminal laws on July 1, less than three weeks from today. These laws were passed by the parliament in late 2023, and are poised to replace three British-era criminal statutes.

The Bharatiya Nyay Samhita will replace the Indian Penal Code, which defines crimes and their punishments. The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita will replace the Criminal Procedure Code, which details the method of prosecuting crime, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Act is set to replace the Evidence Act, which codifies the evidence gathering process for law enforcement. These three new laws will be enforced on 1 July, the law minister said.

The law ministry has held symposiums across the nation, conducted training programmes for lawyers and judges, and created educational institutions for forensic science to smoothly bring the new criminal laws into force, the law minister said.

Reducing the pendency of lawsuits in courts was one of the ministry’s first priorities, Meghwal said. Ushering in corporate participation by increasing the ease of doing business is on the ministry’s agenda, he added.

“India will become an arbitration hub. We have people going to Singapore and London for arbitration. Why should they go there when they can do it here?” he said in his first remarks to the press after assuming office. 

“We have passed the Mediation Act, so that people resolve their disputes outside court efficiently. That way, disputes will be resolved quickly and pendency in courts will fall,” he added.

Prime minister Modi’s government has passed the Mediation Act in 2023, and has made amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act in 2015, 2019, and 2021.

The law ministry would focus on these things with the help of new technology, Meghwal added.

“The increased use of technology driven tools and systems in the courts represents a major opportunity,” said Goswami, from Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.

As a part of its tech-driven approach, the law ministry implemented Phase III of its e-Courts project in September last year. This initiative aims to reduce pendency in courts by digitising court records, moving to cloud technology, and holding online hearings over the next four years. The budget allocation for Phase-III of eCourts is 7,210 crore, as per government press releases.

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Published: 11 Jun 2024, 06:04 PM IST

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