The Law Minister said that there was a “rush to file PILs on almost every issue” nowadays.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday told the Lok Sabha that just as independence of the judiciary is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, the principle of separation of powers is also a part of that basic structure. He asserted that governance and lawmaking should be left to elected members who are accountable to the legislature.
In his reply to a debate on the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2021, which was passed by the Lok Sabha, Mr. Prasad also urged the judiciary to exercise its discretion in accepting public interest litigations (PILs).
The Law Minister said that there was a “rush to file PILs on almost every issue” nowadays. He appealed to the judiciary to look at “genuine” issues such as compensation, working conditions of the working classes, and so on.
The amendment to the Arbitration Act proposes to empower courts to stay arbitration awards if they have been obtained through fraud or corrupt means.
Responding to the queries raised by several members on the need to amend the Arbitration Act retrospectively, and to be brought in the form of an ordinance, the Law Minister said it was necessary to ensure that some parties did not try to take advantage of an arbitral award that may have been obtained through fraud or corrupt means.
“If an award [that] is given against the Union government or a State government is given by fraud and an investor wants to enforce it, is it fair that thousands of crores of taxpayers’ money be given away? Some of the members have asked ‘why an ordinance?’ Why not? Should we part with taxpayers’ money?” Mr. Prasad asked.
The Law Minister said that Narendra Modi wanted to make India a hub of both domestic and international arbitration and asserted that the country welcomed foreign arbitrators.
Earlier, several members, including Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and K. Suresh, and Revolutionary Socialist Party MP N. K. Premachandran, objected to earlier changes to the Act through the ordinance route.
Many Opposition members also talked about keeping the dispute settlement mechanism simple and investor friendly. In this context, Biju Janata Dal MP Pinali Misra pointed that India was ranked 163 among 190 nations according to a World Bank report on the enforcement of contract agreements. Replying to him, Mr. Prasad said it was an improvement over where India was in 2015 and highlighted the massive improvement in India’s global ranking in terms of ease of doing business.
While appreciating the Bill, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Gopal Shetty urged the Law Minister to ensure that laws should be drafted in simple language so that common people could understand them.