While the State was amid a political churn with a cabinet reshuffle, there was one decision that rather skipped the attention of common citizens -- Chief Minster Pramod Sawant's announcement that the backlog of mundkarial cases would be cleared within two months. By any stretch of the imagination, this was a quantum jump from the timeline that Revenue Minister Atanasio alias Babush Monserrate has been setting all along.
Sawant spoke about adding to the work hours by including Saturdays amid a slew of other measures that sounded more of an extension of what Monserrate was promising but had failed to achieve. There are nearly 800 cases mundkarial cases pending before the quasi-judicial magisterial courts, and the number is only growing by the day.
Concerns of the mundkarial cases piling up had been raised by the Revenue Minister Atanasio alias Babush Monserrate on numerous occasions in the past and CM's fresh attempt to tackle the issue does not exude new confidence. From instructing to hold periodic review meetings on the progress of cases, to streamlining processes so that fault-finding and rectification happen early, a people-friendly approach, better delivery of services, etc are very vague measures. We may recall Monserrate's brief to all mamlatdars to expedite work with "No more Tarik pe tarik" (no more repeated postponements) and the promises given to people at the recent Janata Darbars. None of that has worked.
Sawant has taken the baton from Monserrate and added on a few of his initiatives in yet another effort to expedite cases. Some of them include limiting adjournments, faster disposal of cases pending for over three years, SMS service to inform parties about hearings and setting an outer limit of 30 days to issue orders after hearings are complete.
Broadly, all initiatives taken by Monserrate and Sawant point to the fact that there is an inordinate delay in settling mundkarial cases, and it also shows that measures deployed so far are ineffective.
Surprisingly, ministers appear to be taking the settlement of land issues very casually by asking mamlatdars to dispose of cases within a short time frame of two months, asking them to be fearless, or limiting the maximum permissible adjournments and holding them accountable for the delays. Those in the government must understand that quasi-judicial magistrates don't operate on a set formula, but sit in judgement over land issues that sometimes are not only complex but require a thorough understanding.
Curtailing adjournments is an absurd idea, and so is the directive telling mamlatdars to be fearless because postponements are sometimes not a matter of choice. Also, if there is fear in delivering justice, then the government has another problem at hand.
The need of the hour is to have mamlatdars exclusively hear mundkarial and tenancy cases, a promise that Monserrate made way back in August last year. Mamlatdars, besides the mundkarial case hearings, currently have other roles assigned and are tasked with revenue administration, law and order-related matters, coordinating with other departments, maintaining land records, overseeing government land, collecting dues and other site inspection jobs.
While multitasking, quasi-judicial magistrates will never be able to deliver timely justice to these cases and clearing the backlog will always be an uphill climb. The cases have been hovering around 800 and continue to remain there because the solutions suggested are hypothetical and are not in sync with the scenario on the ground.