Budget 2019: Drastic cut in allocation for law and justice

Major part of cut is attributed to expenditure associated with LS polls' preparations

Supreme Court rep Sanjay Ahlawat [File] The Supreme Court of India | Sanjay Ahlawat

While the Economic Survey emphasised the importance of strengthening the justice delivery system in the country to facilitate ease of doing business, the budgetary allocation for the law and justice department has been reduced drastically compared with the previous financial year.

While the budget allocated for the law and justice department—which includes expenditure on the Election Commission as also the courts and the tribunals—was Rs 4,386.33 crore in 2018-19, the allocation for 2019-20 shows a major reduction, standing at Rs 3,055.11 crore.

While a major part of the reduction in the budgetary allocation can be explained on account of expenditure incurred in preparing for the Lok Sabha elections, what is glaring is a substantial cut in the money allocated for Centrally sponsored schemes meant for strengthening the justice delivery system. These schemes come under the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms. The budgetary allocation for the mission this year stands at Rs 292.26 crore, which is a sharp dip from the Rs 497 crore allocated in 2018-19.

The Economic Survey pinpointed the pendency of cases in the Indian courts as a major impediment in boosting economic activity. “In spite of a number of actions to expedite and improve the contract-enforcement regime, economic activity is being affected by the long shadow of delays and pendency across the legal landscape,” the Economic Survey said. It said contract enforcement remains the single biggest constraint to improving the country's ease of doing business ranking.

However, the budget for infrastructure facilities for the judiciary has increased from Rs 630 crore in the previous fiscal to Rs 720 crore now. The allocation for autonomous bodies such as the National Judicial Academy, the National Legal Services Authority and the Indian Law Institute has been increased from Rs 95.15 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 154 crore in 2019-20.

There is a marginal increase in the allocation earmarked for the Supreme Court to meet the expenditure of the establishment, the amount going up from Rs 251.06 crore in 2018-19 to Rs Rs 269.46 crore in 2019-20.

A major cut is seen in the budgetary allocation for the election-conducting machinery—the amount earmarked for this coming down from Rs 2,817.12 crore to Rs 1,454.55 crore. A major chunk of this is accounted for by the money that was allocated for purchase of EVMs in the previous fiscal: Rs 1,760.77 crore was allocated for EVMs in 2018-19, while the allocation stands at just Rs 25.01 crore this year.