In Conversation With Dr Satya Pal Singh Baghel, Minister of State (Law & Justice)

In a candid conversation with BW Businessworld's Ruhail Amin, Shri (Prof.) Satya Pal Singh Baghel, Indian politician and current Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and Justice talks about various initiatives taken by the Narendra Modi Government for the betterment of the justice delivery system of the country and important yojanas introduced for the upliftment of Bharat—rural India.

What would you call a major achievement of your government when it comes to your ministry over the last 8 years?

This has been the first time since independence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers have remained unblemished for eight long years in the Lutyens zone. These eight years have been devoid of corruption and replete with progress. I always say this couplet on the circumstances existent in 2014 when Narendra Modi came into power, “Na majhi, na rehbar, na hak mein hawayein, hai kashti bhi tooti, yeh kaisa safar hai. Fakiri ka apna alag hi mazza hai, na pane ki chinta, na khone ka darr hai.” This closely translates to how the person who does not get embroiled in the dilemmas of gain and loss, is able to take big decisions in the national interest, which were taken by Narendra Modi.

What are some of the reforms in the pipeline planned by your ministry?

 As I said before, the past eight years have been driven by progress and devoid of corruption, which cannot be paralleled in politics. Our government has introduced schemes like Direct Benefit Transfer, so today when one rupee is sent from Delhi it reaches the village with its full value intact. 

Many Prime Ministers knew the plight of the women who urinated and defecated out in the open. Narendra Modi took it upon himself to initiate the construction of toilets throughout the country. While being in the Police, whenever I noticed an FIR for rape, I used to see that rape commonly occurred when the victims went out to relieve themselves in the open fields. Because in those times, women used to go out for defecation only after sunset or before sunrise. The criminals took advantage of the dark. So due to these toilets, rapes have drastically reduced. 

Another great achievement is the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana. (The Mission addresses urban housing shortage among the EWS/LIG and MIG categories including the slum dwellers by ensuring a pucca house to all eligible urban households.) 

To protect the family of the deceased, Prime Minister started the Pradhan Mantri Jiwan Bima Suraksha Yojana with the only condition that the person's age should be between 18 and 70 years. It does not matter whether he is poor or rich. 

About 80 crore people in this country are part of the Public Distribution System and collect their wheat and rice free of cost. People apply for toilets, for homes, for Ayushman Health Card, widow, disabled and senior citizen pensions. We need to understand that this is a country of the poor. That is the reason we have a life insurance in which only 20 rupees have to be paid in a year. 

Then there is Pradhan Mantri Jiwan Jyoti Yojana in which 400 rupees have to be paid in a year and two lakh is the sum assured. There are two life insurances available for the people to subscribe. If any person dies due to an animal bite, road accident or natural disaster, the person would receive these 4 lakh rupees. With these 4 lakh rupees basic necessities of a villager can be fulfilled. Thus, this has been a big work. 

During the monsoon, when fuel used to get wet, it used to be very difficult for the womenfolk. Therefore, the Prime Minister introduced Ujjwala Yojana and provided LPG cylinders. 

Today, we have also ensured that the poor do not die because of lack of treatment for their ailements. Through the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Yojana, which is through the Ayushman Card, a person can avail treatment of up to five lakh rupees in good hospitals. 

Labourers have also benefited through welfare schemes for their children by way of Direct Benefit Transfer. Their children will be provided financial support for their education and marriage. 

All these, in totality, are very big policies. All these works are amazing. I think we have also reached new heights in the sphere of international politics. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office, President of the United States Barack Obama came to grace the occasion on our Republic Day. Modi Ji talked about the US President by using his first name, which is usually not considered formal. So, when Modi Ji called the US President Barack, we understood that we are close friends with America.  

Many laws have come and then there were rollbacks. What was the issue?

There are many qualities and shortcomings of the federal system in our country. There are many political parties. There are people who pursue their own interests and their party's interests instead of the national interest and then their state's interests. Instead of "Jai Bharat" people take the name of their state. What I mean to say is that there was no deficit in the laws. People have freedom of opinions in this country. We are a democratic country. Albeit, it seems people were swayed. 

BJP thinks about the nation first, party second and then individual. But for the others party is first, second comes the individual and nation is nowhere on their agenda. In totality, the laws that we passed were in the national interest. People could not understand them. People got misled by the opposition leaders and agitations took place. 

I would like to appreciate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even today my opinion is that Farm Bills were in the interest of the farmers. If you ask me why they were taken back, PM Modi took them back because he has a big heart. 

For instance, I have given my farm on contract to someone at a fixed price of Rs. 10,000. There may be scope of cheating. But Farm Bills would have led to contract farming. Thousands of companies would have taken part in it. Many students are pursuing their education in organic farming and business management. People are cultivating honey, flowers, fruits. Now with contract farming one could get Rs. 20,000 instead of Rs. 10,000. Also, there would be repercussions for breach of contract.  No one would be able to usurp the lands of others. 

What are some of the other laws that require a change? 

Prime Minister had expressed his wish at Vigyan Bhawan in 2016 that there is a need for a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system of the country. High Courts and all judges of the Supreme Court were present. PM had expressed his desire to repeal the colonial laws that had become obsolete.

I would like to communicate to the legal fraternity that we are going to bring about big reforms in the national interest. We repealed Articles 370 and 35A. Triple Talak was also nullified. 

Likewise, 1450 irrelevant laws have been repealed in Modi Ji's regime. Indian Constitution has gone through more than 100 amendments. Prime Minister and Home Minister are working to reform the Indian Penal Code (1860), Indian Evidence Act (1872) and the Criminal Procedure Code (1973). Though CrPC has been amended twice in the past, IPC and Indian Evidence Act have only had some changes from time to time. An overhaul of the nation’s criminal justice system is much needed. The criminals have changed, the law enforcement has changed. On Prime Minister Modi's instructions, the Home Minister is working to make huge reforms in the IPC, Indian Evidence Act and the CrPC. 

Two most important things Legal Education in India must focus on.

Top priority is education and the ones who impart it. Therefore, institutes must ensure their faculties are good. Secondly, entrance exams should be of gold standard. Advocates are one of the three privileged people in this country. Teachers and doctors are the other two. When we look back at the independence struggle most people who participated were law graduates. Be it Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Motilal Nehru, all were advocates. 

Earlier geniuses used to pursue this profession. Then there was a steep drop in the standards. Bar Council set the benchmark as 45 per cent for registration. But now, things are changing. Presently, India is producing 80,000 lawyers every year. Now, every fifth student says that he/she is preparing for Law. Science graduates are also inclined towards legal issues such as DNA and Lie detector and biological tests; forensic sciences that include footprint and fingerprint, semen test and more. So times have changed and for the better. Under the able leadership of Narendra Modi, we'll certainly become Vishwa Guru and have universities as famous as Nalanda and Takshashila again.

There are about five crore cases pending at various courts in India. How is the Ministry of Law and Justice planning to address it?

Five crore pending cases is a big number but the population of 130 crore should also be taken into account. India's law and justice system has been based on religion and is entrenched in the system. 

Law and justice have a method. There is a court procedure of first issuing summons, then a bailable warrant and then finally non-bailable warrant. Thereafter property gets attached. The person cannot be straightaway hanged to death. It is also incumbent on the people to appear in Court on time. 

Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, the appointment of judges has increased by 150%. This Government has constituted POCSO Courts and Fast Track Courts. During the pandemic when justice was under a lockdown in the world, our courts have done virtual hearings throughout the country and one should not loose sight of the progress. I would like to assure everyone, that in Narendra Modi's leadership, we think ahead of the time. This is the golden era for India and things are improving. 

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