Judges should learn to refuse adjournment pleas: Venugopal


New Delhi : Judges need to be trained to dismiss adjournment pleas from senior lawyers in order to ensure speedy adjudication of criminal and civil cases as well as for faster out-of-court arbitration, noted jurist K.K. Venugopal said here.

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Speaking at a closed-door session of an international seminar on arbitration in the capital Friday, Venugopal underlined the tardiness of the arbitration process in the country, saying: “First it takes about five years in reaching a decision over a dispute through an arbitration process.

“And then it’s another five years of chasing the case through the three-tier judicial layers of various courts in implementing the decisions arrived at after the arbitration.”

Venugopal’s critical appraisal of arbitration law and procedures in India came in the same seminar where Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj expressed a wish to see India emerge as an international arbitration hub.

Bhardwaj said: “It is my dream that India should emerge as a hub of international arbitration.”

Venugopal said: “In 1996, when the arbitration law was enacted, with backlog of cases hovering at 36 million in trial courts, four million in various high courts and at 30,000 in the Supreme Court, the law was expected to be a panacea for the huge pendancy of cases in the judiciary.

“But the arbitration process too with all its attendant delays and tardiness has become a clone of the justice delivery system of India.”

Enumerating the steps required for enhancing the efficacy of the arbitration process, Venugopal said: “To begin with, the judges involved in the arbitration process should be trained (on) how to refuse senior counsels’ plea for adjournments on flimsy grounds.

“In fact, if judges learn how to say no to pleas for adjournments, it would be helpful in faster disposal of ordinary court cases as well.”

Pointing out the tendency of retired judges to be over-dependent upon legal procedures in deciding the arbitration cases referred to them, Venugopal said: “The National Judicial Academy of Bhopal should also train them to be not over-dependent upon the judicial procedure in arbitration matters.”

The jurist said the arbitration law should be amended in such a way that a retired judge, who fails to finalise an arbitration process within one year and seeks to approach the court for extension of his tenure as arbitrator, should be made to tell the court the reasons for his failure, including adjournments, the grounds of adjournment and also the fee that he has received for his service.

Citing another lacuna in the arbitration process, Venugopal said Indian lawyers are accustomed to arbitration only as a part-time profession during the evenings after their engagement with regular courts are over. This tendency must go for India to emerge as a hub of international arbitration, he stressed.

Venugopal made his observations to a distinguished gathering of international legal luminaries at the seminar titled ‘International Judicial Colloquium on Arbitration and Courts’ Harmony Amid Disharmony’.

Over 500 participants from 22 countries as well as at least 60 serving judges of the apex court and high courts in the country are attending the two-day conference.

Legal luminaries attending the conference include Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Arijit Pasayat of the Supreme Court, former chief justice R.C. Lahoti and eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman, International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions (IFCAI) president Ulf Franke and London’s Essex Court’s Chamber’s Toby Landau.

Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions (IFCAI) are hosting the seminar jointly.`