After the outcry over the Delhi rape, do you agree there is a need to amend laws on such crimes?
The outrage was a legitimate expression of anguish of an essentially civilised nation over the perceived failure of the law and order and justice delivery mechanism. The UPA government has responded with speed and we are waiting for the reports of the committees constituted. I believe the real challenge for the government and lawmakers is to ensure how laws that are effective and are also seen to be effective, and which can promote substantial justice for each individual without any discrimination, are implemented. The flaw lies not in the absence of laws but in the procedural inadequacies that have marred the implementation of some of the most well-meaning laws.
What have your priorities been in the three months since you took over as law and justice minister?
(There is a) need to reinvigorate the system of gram nyayalayas, aimed at taking justice to the doorstep of the needy. Since 2008, only seven states have managed to set up 161 gram nyayalayas. I have set a target of 5,000 in the next three, four years and our efforts have already started bearing fruit... I am also conscious that unless there are adequate funds, we can’t bring justice to the doorstep of the people. We are working on a new financing mechanism to see how the Centre can take on itself a major share of the burden.
What about judicial reforms, with the Judicial (Standards and Accountability) Bill struck?
I have persuaded the cabinet to clear the amended bill, which is a major move in the direction of making the judiciary more accountable after some of the aberrations noticed from time to time. In addition, the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill has been cleared by me and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office for discussion in the cabinet. On the assumption that the cabinet will approve it, it will be my endeavour to bring the bill before Parliament as soon as possible. I will also continue to move in the direction of making our regulatory mechanisms effective rather than being oppressive. The buzzword is how to make our legal processes benign, effective, politically-neutral and not oppressive. That is the final test for any good nation or a society.
How do you plan to fill vacancies in the higher judiciary when there are few takers for judgeship from among