Days after the Union law minister informed Parliament that “The Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts and Commercial Courts Bill, 2015” is likely to be tabled before the House in the next session, the Delhi High Court has designated four benches as “commercial courts”.
According to information released by the office of the Registrar General, Delhi High Court, two benches hearing matters of Original jurisdiction, and two division benches, as Commercial Appellate courts, will start functioning from Thursday.
Currently, there are between 18,000-20,000 cases pending in the Delhi High Court which are commercial in nature.
High Court Registrar General Vinod Goel on Wednesday said that the decision had been taken by Chief Justice G Rohini to “streamline the civil justice system” as well as “ensure speedy disposal of the cases”.
The High Court already has specific benches dealing with Company matters, Arbitration matters and Taxation matters, while five benches dealt with “Original side” jurisdiction. According to the information released by the administration, the “Commercial courts” will not affect the already existing benches which have so far been exclusively set up for the Arbitration, Company and Tax matters.
The courts of Commercial civil judges have been functioning in the Delhi District courts since the 1990s, with one civil judge in each district handling such matters. The courts of the civil judges have also been renamed by the Delhi High court as “Commercial courts”.
The Law Commission in its 253rd report given to Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda in January this year had formulated a draft bill, ‘The Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts and Commercial Courts Bill, 2015’.
Favouring a new legislation to exclusively deal with commercial disputes, the panel also suggested changes in the Civil Procedure Code, which lays down rules for the courts to adjudicate such disputes. Earlier this month, the law minister had also informed Parliament that the Commercial courts bill is likely to be tabled before the house in the next session.
While the High Court in its administrative order has not mentioned the issue of pecuniary jurisdiction, the draft Bill also envisages granting pecuniary jurisdiction of one crore to the High Court commercial benches.
Reacting to the High Court’s decision, Delhi High Court Bar Association secretary, advocate Abhijat said that it was “alarming that the decision was taken without consulting the Bar” and said that it was a “prima facie meaningless order” since the issue of jurisdiction was to be finalised by the Parliament. “The decision is at best an administrative order which can’t override or supplant a bill which is still being drafted,” he said.