Ministry of Law and Justice (India)

The Ministry of Law and Justice in the Government of India is a cabinet ministry which deals with the management of the legal affairs, legislative activities and administration of justice in India through its three departments namely the Legislative Department and the Department of Legal Affairs and Department of Justice respectively. The Department of Legal Affairs is concerned with advising the various Ministries of the Central Government while the Legislative Department is concerned with drafting of principal legislation for the Central Government. The ministry is headed by a cabinet rank minister appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of India.  The first Law and Justice minister of independent India was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, who served in the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet during 1947–51. Ravi Shankar Prasad was the Minister of Law and Justice until the cabinet reshuffle in 2021 and was replaced by Kiren Rijiju.

Introduction

  • The ministry of Law and Justice is the oldest limb of the Government of India dating back to 1833 when the Charter Act,1833 was enacted by the British Parliament.
  • Ministry of Law and Justice comprises the three Departments namely the Department of Legal Affairs, the Legislative Department and the Department of Justice.
  • The main sources of law in India are the Constitution, statutes (legislation), customary law and case law.

Judicial

  • At the apex of the entire judicial system exists the Supreme Court of India with a High Court for each state or group of states and under the High Courts there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts.
  • Panchayat Courts also function in some states under various names like Nyaya Panchayat, Panchayat Adalat, Gram Kachehri, etc., to decide civil and criminal disputes of petty and local nature.
  • The highest court in each district is that of District and Sessions Judge.
  • This district court is the principal court of civil jurisdiction and can try all offences including those punishable with death. He is the highest judicial authority in a district.
  • Below him, there are courts of civil jurisdiction, known in different states as Munsifs, Sub-Judges, Civil Judges and the like. Similarly, criminal courts comprise Chief Judicial Magistrate and Judicial Magistrate of First and Second class.
  • On January 26, 1950, Supreme Court of India was setup under the new Constitution. The Supreme Court of India comprises the Chief Justice and 30 other Judges appointed by the President of India. Justice Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde is the 47th Chief Justice of India.
  • There are 25 High Courts in the country, three having jurisdiction over more than one state. Among the union territories, Delhi alone has a High Court of its own. Other six union territories come under the jurisdiction of different state High Courts.
  • National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms was set up in 2011 with the twin objectives of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears in the system and enhancing accountability
  • The e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project is one of the e-Governance projects being implemented in High Courts and district/subordinate courts of the country.
  • In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department of Justice (DoJ), Ministry of Law and Justice, is implementing a decade long programme on Access to Justice for Marginalised People (2008- 2017).

Legal Affairs

  • Department of Legal Affairs is the nodal department for reciprocal arrangement with foreign countries for enforcement of arbitral awards pursuant to the New York Convention under section 44(b) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
  • The department of Legal Affairs is the Central Authority under The Hague Convention of 1965 for service aboard of judicial and extra-judicial documents in civil and commercial matters.
  • In line with Digital India mission, Legal Information Management and Briefing System (LIMBS) digitalizes the court case details and brings various stakeholders on a single platform.
  • Department of Legal Affairs constituted a high level committee to review Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism in India, under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Justice SHRI B. N. Srikrishna.
  • The Appellate Tribunal for Foreign Exchange was established in 2000 under Section 18 of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999.

Enforcement Agencies

  • Indo-Tibetan Border Police was raised in the wake of Chinese aggression in 1962. Today, ITBPF guards 3,488 kms of Indo-China Border.
  • Border Security Force was raised in 1965 for guarding the international borders with Pakistan.
  • The Assam Rifles raised as Catchar Levy in 1835 is the oldest Central Para Military Force in India. It has its headquarters at Shillong and the Force is completely deployed in the North East for guarding the Indo-Myanmar Border.
  • National Security Guard (NSG) was raised in 1985 as a Federal Contingency Force under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was formed in 1939 at Neemuch as the Crown Representative’s Police. It is the only Central Armed Police Force in the country which has 3 Mahila Battalions.
  • In 1992, 10 Battalions of CRPF were reorganized and converted into 10 battalions of 4 coys each of Rapid Action Force (RAF). The personnel in RAF are trained and equipped to be an effective strike Force in communal riots and similar situations.
  • In order to effectively tackle the Maoists, the need for a Special Force, capable of striking at the core of naxal heartland was felt. With this idea, ten CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) battalions were raised between 2008 and 2011.
  • Raised in 1969, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is providing security cover to 303 units including 59 domestic and international airports and fire protection cover to 87 industrial undertakings.
  • The “Sashastra Seema Bal” (SSB) is the newest border guarding force of Union of India entrusted with the guarding of Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders.

Police

  • Public order and police being state subjects under the Constitution, police is maintained and controlled by states.
  • The police force in a state is headed by the Director General of Police/ Inspector General of Police.
  • Police set up in big cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Pune, etc., is directly under a Commissioner of Police who enjoys magisterial powers.

Civil Defence

  • Civil Defence includes any measures not amounting to actual combat, for affording protection to any person, property, place or thing in India or any part of the territory thereof against any hostile attack.
  • The Amendment to the Civil Defence Act, 1968 accorded legal sanction to the additional role of the Civil Defence constituents in the field of disaster management.
  • The training of master trainers and specialized training is conducted at the National Civil Defence College, Nagpur.
  • Home Guards is a voluntary force, first raised in India in December, 1946, to assist the police in controlling civil disturbances and communal riots. Home Guards are raised under the Home Guards Act and rules of the states/union territories.

Fire Services

  • “Fire Services” is a state subject and has been included as a municipal function in the XII schedule of the Constitution of India in terms of Article 243-W.
  • As such, it is the primary responsibility of the state governments/municipal bodies to enforce the National Building Code and allocate sufficient resources for strengthening and equipping Fire Services.

Personal Laws

  • The subject matter of personal laws is relatable to entry 5 of List III- Concurrent list in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India and hence the Union Legislature, namely Parliament and subject to the provisions of Article 254 of the Constitution.
  • Persons governed by The Special Marriage Act, 1954 can specifically register marriage under the said Act even though they are of different religious faiths.
  • In Divorce Act, 1869 comprehensive amendments were made through Indian Divorce (Amendment) Act, 2001 to remove discriminatory provisions against women in the matter of divorce and to provide for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent.
  • Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, right of maintenance extends not only to the wife and dependent children, but also to indigent parents and divorced wives.
  • The Indian Succession Act was enacted in 1925 to consolidate the law applicable to intestate and testamentary succession which was in existence at that time. The Act does not apply to the residents of the union territory of Puducherry.

Adoption

  • Although there is no general law governing adoption, it is permitted by The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 amongst Hindus.
  • Muslims, Christians and Parsis have no adoption laws and have to approach the court under The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890.

Anand Marriage (Amendment) Act, 2012

  • The Anand Marriage Act, 1909 was enacted to remove doubts as to the validity of the marriage rights of the Sikh called “Anand” and it does not provide for the provisions of registration of marriages.
  • However, vide The Anand Marriage (Amendment), Act, 2012, The Anand Marriage Act, 1909 was amended to provide for registration of Anand marriages commonly known as Anand Karaj.

Election Laws and Electoral Reforms

Delimitation of Constituencies

  • The first Delimitation Commission in India was constituted in 1952, the second in 1962 and the third in the year 1973. The third delimitation exercise—based on 1971 census—was completed in the year 1975.
  • The present delimitation, based on 2001 census, has been undertaken after 30 years. The Government, as part of the National Population Policy strategy, decided to extend the current constitutional freeze on undertaking fresh delimitation up to 2026.

Electronic Voting Machines

  • The use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) was started in the country on experiment basis in 1982. During the General Elections to the Lok Sabha in 2004, EVMs were used in all polling stations across the country.
  • The EVMs were developed at the behest of the Election Commission jointly with two Public Sector Undertakings, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad (ECIL) in 1989.

Electors’ Photo Identity Cards

  • The use of electors’ photo identity cards by the Election Commission was started in 1993 throughout the country to check bogus voting and impersonation of electors at elections.
  • The electoral roll is the basis for issue of EPIC to the registered electors.
  • 25th January has been declared as the National Voters’ Day to focus on enrolment of voters and making EPIC.
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