Arun Jaitely, Senior Advocate
Ever since his student days, Arun Jaitely has always been actively involved in the politics. When at college, he was arrested during the Emergency period and spent months in the prison. He completed his law from the Delhi University in the year 1976-77 and was the President of the Students union of the University. At a young age, Arun Jaitely became a designated Senior Advocate and was also appointed as an Additional Solicitor General of India. But inspite of his busy schedule in law, interest in politics always remained at the core of his heart. Till last month, he was the Union Law Minister and presently, is the spokesman for the Bhartiya Janata party. While in the Ministry, he has done a lot for the better working of the judicial system by proposing / introducing several legal reforms. In an exclusive interview with LawZ, Arun Jaitely shares his views.
- What motivated you to enter the legal profession?
When you are going through your academics your aptitudes keep growing and finally it is your basic aptitude that determines the choice of your profession. I belong to a family where there were a large number of members in the legal profession. I was already active in student politics and debating was my passion and therefore law almost became a natural choice of career for me.
- How did you manage to cope up with both your professional life and political activities, when both the said professions need full time devotion?
For the last 22 years i.e. since 1977, when I had entered the legal profession, I never missed even a single day of Court because of my political activities.
But, I never got into electoral politics i.e. I never got into constituency politics. Therefore, my priority during this period primarily remained law practice, and while my priority remained law practice only a specified part of my time remained with the political activities.
The Indian Legal System is a fair system. It is a powerful system, but is over crowded and therefore slow.
- What are the primary law reforms necessary to enable our judiciary to work in a better and more effective manner?
Regarding law reforms, we must first try to know and ascertain what the problem is. The Indian Legal System is a fair system. It is a powerful system, but is over crowded and therefore slow. The tenure of reforms therefore has to be two fold. One is to change laws in context of changed technological and economical environment. That in fact, is a process which is already going on. The second is how to fight the delays in the Indian Legal System.
Now I have been able to analyse by myself as to where the problem lies. First our procedures are too lengthy and capable of being exploited by any one who wants to delay matters. Therefore procedural laws are required to be changed. After consultation with the bar association and other important agencies I finally could manage to get amended the Code of Civil Procedure from the parliament. It has been notified with effect from 1st of July’ 2002. If the amended code is seriously implement by both the Bench and the Bar, the life of a civil case should not be more that one year. Each stage of a case has been compartmentalised and fixed into a time frame. Similarly with respect to the criminal procedure we had appointed an expert group, which is also going into this question.
The 2nd issue relates to even reforming our existing laws and binding them into a time frame. For instance, we have done it in context of personal laws. We have said that all maintenance applications are to be decided within 60 days. Similarly changes are now being made in Negotiable Instruments Act, specially with regard to Section 138, which probably will be approved in the next session of the parliament.
The third area is to create an effective ADR mechanism where people have remedy outside the Court premises. For instance, the new amendments to the NALSA Act is to have permanent Lok Adalats in all public utilities. The people instead of rushing to Courts must have a Pre-Litigation Forum for resolving their issues.
- What do you have to say about the rising costs of litigation?
I would say that the problem of costs is really at the level of a few counsels and a few law firms, which mainly deal with the corporates. If you see the large body of Indian advocates, across the country, most of them are not involved in any High cost litigation. However, there are people who because of poverty even cannot afford that and therefore it is necessary that the legal aid system has to be made effective.
- As regarding our Legal education system, what would you say as to whether a 5 year course after intermediate is good or a 3 year course after graduation is better? Now days, there are so many colleges and universities which are offering a 5 year course. We did not have any system of 5 year courses when I was doing my law from Delhi University. I think, that one can have a better understanding of the subject if he persues a law degree after graduating in any discipline. But,certainly, the experience of the 5 year courses has been that the students being produced out of it are more professional.
We must have a provision where the sick companies can either be expeditiously revived or liquidated.
- In the past there had been news about changes in the Sick Industrial Companies Act (SICA). Can you elaborate on these reforms.
I strongly believe and agree that SICA has failed to deliver. That is why, one of the first things I did was to have a new insolvency chapter drafted in context of Companies Act and the same was introduced, last winters in the parliament, and is now before the standing committee and I think that every market economy needs a strong exit law. We must have a provision where the sick companies can either be expeditiously revived or expeditiously liquidated. You cannot convert them into non-performing assets forever. Secondly you do not need a mechanism where, as to deal with corporate sickness, the jurisdiction is vested one in the High Court, two in the C. L. B. and three in the BIFR for revival or winding up. The problem is common i.e. the problem of insolvency and it must be dealt with by one forum alone. For this purpose I proposed to set up the National Company Law Tribunal, which shall deal with all such issues.
Secondly, there must be a time frame for revival or winding up.
Thirdly, the present system of Official Liquidators for winding up, has miserably failed. I with my little experience have not seen many creditors, or workmen or revenue being paid by this O. L. mechanism. Therefore, we have to have, simultaneously a panel of private liquidaters, to deal with this liquidation mechanism.
What kind of movies do you like to watch?
The only occasion I do go out to see a movie is due to family pressure, which in one or two years drags me to a cinema theater.
What are your favourite Sports?
Since I am involved in Cricket administration, I of course love to see cricket. I also follow Tennis very closely and also like to see football.
Who all are your favourite Sports persons?
Amongst Spin bowlers, I like to see Shane Warne. Shoiab Akhtar of course is first choice amongst fast bowlers and batsman of course, Sachin and Saurav.
What is your dream destination, for a vacation?
Kashmir is the first choice and then Kasauli, near Shimla. Outside India, any hills in Switzerland.
What type of food do you prefer to eat?
Earlier I used to eat out a lot. But now, I prefer, simple home cooked food, but occasionally I would like to eat North Indian Tandoori Food.
Which are your favourite restaurants in Delhi?
Moti Mahal restaurant in Greater Kailash. Singh Sahib at Hotel Park Royal.
-Published in LawZ July 2002 Issue