One year of the 21st Law Commission; Nil Report!
Vide notification dated 14.09.2015 in the Official Gazette, the 21st Law Commission was constituted with effect from 01.09.2015 to 31.08.2018. More than a year out of the three granted has passed, but the present Law Commission has surprisingly not submitted any report till date. The 20th Law Commission headed by Justice A.P.Shah had raised the standards by quality of recommendations and the quantum of work undertaken. The 21st Law Commission has strangely not followed the tradition and has remained quiet for over a year now.
The 21st Law Commission is headed by Justice B.S.Chauhan who post retirement was chaired as Cauvery Water Tribunal’s head. It is unclear whether he still holds the post but nevertheless since his appointment on March 2016, no report has been submitted by the Law Commission. As per the terms of reference of the 21st Law Commission, it shall deal with Review/Repeal of obsolete laws, Law and Poverty, Review the system of judicial administration to ensure that it is responsive to the reasonable demands of the times, Examine the existing laws in the light of DPSP and to suggest ways of improvement and reform, suggest legislations necessary to implement DPSP, Examine the existing laws to promote gender equality, and suggest amendments thereto and Revise the Central Acts of general importance so as to simplify them and to remove anomalies etc. among other references.
The Ministry of Law and Justice had one year back in September 2015, asked the Law Commission to study the proposal for a comprehensive Bail Act clearly defining the conditions for grant of relief to the accused so as to no longer leave it to the discretion of courts in light of various bails granted to influential persons. The government in July 2016 asked the Law Commission to examine the issue of implementing the controversial Uniform Civil Code in detail and submit a report in light of the order by the Supreme Court dated October 13 2015 wherein it had asked the government to clarify whether there was any definite move to usher in the Uniform Civil Code as there was total confusion in the country due to various personal laws governing religious practices. On October 27, another bench of the Supreme Court had directed a suo motu PIL to be filed in the Supreme Court to re-examine the issue of “gender discrimination” suffered by Muslim women in the country. In its judgment, the bench said that it is time for the apex court to settle once and for all whether the Islamic personal law violated the fundamental rights of Muslim women.
In May 2016, the Allahabad High Court while holding that divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage lies exclusively within jurisdiction of Supreme Court and is beyond jurisdiction of any other Court in India directed the Law Commission of the State to take appropriate steps to consider for incorporating the ground of ”irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as grounds of divorce in Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. In July, 2016 the Supreme Court in Mahipal Singh Rana vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, observed that there is an urgent need to review the provisions of the Advocates Act dealing with regulatory mechanism for the legal profession and requested the Law commission and Government of India to take appropriate steps in this regard. The Supreme Court in July 2016 while accepting majority of the suggestions of the Justice Lodha panel aiming at sweeping reforms in the management and governance of cricket in the country significantly asked the Centre and the Law Commission to examine the recommendation to legalise betting. The Law Commission was also asked to examine if the BCCI, the richest cricket board in the world can be brought under the ambit of the RTI. In August 2016, concerned over piling up of cases against orders by various tribunals, the Supreme Court had asked the Law Commission to examine whether tribunalisation was obstructing effective working of the apex court.
The Law Commission was earlier requested by the Government in 2015 to respond to the Supreme Court’s query while it was seized of hearing the criminal defamation cases. As the Law Commission failed to submit a timely report, the Supreme Court decided the matter finally. The 21st Law Commission was expected to be quick and responsive to the rapidly changing legal scenario in the country especially considering that the current chairperson was very active as a judge and was fond of quoting judgments in his judgments (required or not). Nevertheless, the Law Commission does not appear to have been actively involved and with one third of its duration already lapsing, I ask myself, perhaps I cant ask it, can it be termed as a ‘s-Low Commission’?