Ex-CJI Ramana, Legal News, ET LegalWorld – Legal Firms

NEW DELHI: Former CJI N V Ramana on Saturday said businessmen from across India have pointed to him the “misuse” of criminal laws to threaten and harass them as a trend has gained ground in the country to criminalise civil disputes.

Speaking at a meeting of the Southern Region Council of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at Hyderabad, Justice Ramana said, “When I spoke to businessmen across India, they all mentioned that the criminal law is sometimes misused to threaten and harass them — from complaints relating to bounced cheques under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, to FIRs registered under Section 420 of the IPC. Now, they also appear to fear criminal prosecution pertaining to a number of different legislations – the Benami Prohibition Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act and criminal sanctions under the Companies Act and Tax laws.”

He said an intimidating number of investigating agencies are working in the country — Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Serious Frauds Investigation Office—and asked whether “all this is necessary?”

“Does the government really need to interfere and intervene in every stage and in every aspect. This is a question that we, as a society, must pose ourselves. There needs to be more debate, dialogue and consultation before laws are passed. There must be an assessment of the impact of the law before it is passed,” he said.

Speaking on the topic “Larger role and responsibilities of Indian Judiciary in shaping the Indian Economy and India at 100”, the former CJI said Indian judiciary “is extremely cognisant of its place in society, of its relevance to the people and to the nation. It is independent and filled with women and men of the highest calibre, wanting to do justice to the parties before them”.

However, he conceded that the judicial system faces several crises that affect the faith of individuals, businessmen and investors in the country. “Delays and pendency in judicial proceedings have a deleterious impact on business in the country. The longer it takes to achieve finality in court proceedings, the less certain is the business environment. This creates issues of confidence and faith, discouraging business and industry. The condition is quite severe currently, and the system is close to a breaking point,” he said.

Justice Ramana said the main reasons behind delay in justice delivery are large vacancies in judiciary, poor infrastructure, poorly drafted and ill-conceived legislations, increase in the categories of cases being filed due to the vagueness in laws, and unnecessary litigation by the governments.

Another important factor leading to a series of litigations is the individual ego. “I feel like a lot of litigation is motivated not by logic and reasoned strategy. Rather, it is because one party feels like it cannot lose. This is why cases, even though they are not of high value, are fought tooth and nail by all involved all the way to the Supreme Court,” he said.

The ex-CJI said during his tenure he filled a large number of vacancies in the Supreme Court and HCs. He said his focus also was to adopt technology in speeding up the justice delivery system and propagate extensive use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

“Though my vision for the National Judicial Infrastructure Authority did not fructify, I am glad that I could generate considerable debate on the subject, which is now identified as one of the key areas which requires attention,” he said.

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