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News: In the year 2021 Indian Parliament passed laws that had themes ranging from surrogacy to transportation of cargo via rivers. Supreme court also passed around 866 judgements.
These affect almost every aspect of a citizen’s existence, but despite affecting our life so deeply, they are hardly publicly discussed.
Why are laws not a part of public debates?
Long judgements & usage of Latin words: Laws in India are still drafted in the same pattern as was done in the colonial era. They still involve over usage of Latin words and very long sentences.
– This makes them understandable only by lawyers and experts, and ordinary citizens are unable to even comprehend them.
– They are inaccessible. One of the reasons which also makes laws inaccessible is the long judgements.
For instance: The judgement of seven judges of the Supreme Court in Champakam Dorairajan’s case (the first judgment on the constitutionality of reservation in medical and engineering colleges) was of mere 4 pages.
In comparison, the judgement of nine judges of the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney’s case in 1992 on the constitutionality of OBC reservation was of 556 pages.
This is not because the issue was significantly more complex than in Champakam. It is primarily because, over the decades, little to no efforts were made to keep judgements shorter.
How should the laws be instead drafted?
Laws should be SARAL- simple, actionable, reasoned and accessible.
Law should be simple that is in very simple language, capable of easy, automated translation and summary into any language spoken in India.
Making laws actionable means that they should have necessary teeth to make them meaningful.
Reasoned laws mean that they are based on evidence and data rather than guesswork
Laws should be accessible. For example: They should be machine-readable and visually impaired friendly.
What is the way forward?
Judgements over the years have become long due to unedited quoting of case law, quoting foreign law unnecessarily, copy-pasted reproduction of arguments made by lawyers. This should be discouraged.
Laws should be drafted in plain English. Long judgement with wide use of Latin words is an approach derived from the United Kingdom, which has itself switched to drafting laws in plain English so that its citizens understand them.
Pendency of cases: In 2021, the number of pending cases is around 69,855. Amongst these pending cases are matters of grave constitutional significance – the nullification of Article 370 and the Pegasus spyware case.
The Supreme Court should bring in reforms to clear backlog, as justice delayed is justice denied.
Source: This post is based on the article “Write laws for Bharat” published in Times of India on 7th Jan 2022.