February 17, 2024
On the First of February, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for the financial year 2024-2025. The Ministry of Law and Justice was granted ₹ 6461 crore in the interim budget for the upcoming financial year which is about ₹ 1700 crore than its allocation the previous financial year. The Ministry was granted, among other things, ₹ 1282.18 crores divided among its capital assets, allocations for the establishment of autonomous bodies, and union territory from the said budget. Furthermore, The Supreme Court’s expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund is ₹ 485.49 crores, and Fast Track Special Courts expenditure charged from the Nirbhaya Fund is ₹ 200 crores. Lastly, the estimated strength of establishment and other provisions is over ₹ 650 crores divided among the Ministry itself, the Supreme Court, and the Election Commission, with the largest share being that of the apex court itself.
Let's look at the implications of this budget on the Ministry of Law and Justice. The Arbitration Council of India and the Mediation Council of India were allotted ₹ 50 lakh each. These bodies are yet to form and this new allocation gives us a positive outlook to hope for their formation this year. The fast-track special courts which were to be established by the year 2026 have also received funding of ₹ 200 crores to aid in the states and union territories. These courts aim to swiftly resolve cases, with a few of the courts specializing in POCSO, to provide a remedy to the aggrieved. This allocation is made from the Nirbhaya fund, to honour the rape victim and ensure that the victims of such heinous acts receive justice without any procedural delay. The expenditure charged on the Supreme Court has been reduced by about 30 crores, and the overall strength of its establishment and other provisions only shows a marginal increase, however the same is said to not hinder the Apex Court in its functioning by any means. The estimated strength and provisions of the Ministry itself and the Election Commission also only show a marginal increase which will not hinder their functioning but will not have a positive impact either. The Supreme Court will also receive ₹ 800 crores for the expansion of its complex which is the largest capital expenditure allocation it has received in the last 10 years and ₹ 1000 crores has been allocated in general to improve the judicial infrastructure and gram nyayalays.
Let's look at the implications of the new budget on the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) facilities in our country. As stated the increase in funding for the Arbitration and Mediation Councils of India is a welcome step that can facilitate their establishment in the coming year. The India International Arbitration Centre received an allocation of ₹ 4 crores which will aid in its functioning and the third phase of the e-courts program was allocated ₹ 1500 crores which along with the first two phases of the project will help digitize the different facets of Indian Judiciary from initiation to judgment.
The Minister of MSME had launched the Raising and Accelerating MSME Performance (RAMP) project which received an allocation of ₹ 1170 crores. A part of the RAMP project, which is also funded by the World Bank is the inclusion of ODR in the cases of recovery of delayed payments from MSME which is a positive step in the acceptance of ODR for dispute resolution.
Lastly, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also taken steps towards the facilitation of ADR and ODR, however, it only budgeted ₹ 5 crores towards Strengthening Consumer Forum, Consumer Counselling and Mediation’ which aims to assist in the establishment of consumer counselling and mediation centres.