THE government recently amended the Goa Agriculture Tenancy Act to transfer the tenancy cases back to the courts of mamlatdars with the objective of expediting their disposal as civil courts failed to do so. Despite three years having elapsed after the cases were transferred to senior judges they continue to remain unheard and undisposed. The mamlatdars are opposed to it as they say they are already overburdened. There is a feeling among them that they were in the past blamed for delay in disposal of the cases by politicians and would be targeted by them again. The tossing of tenancy cases from one authority to another is puzzling and may not yield the desired results unless government appoints mamlatdars with adequate knowledge of law to handle only the tenancy cases.
The state government had on August 22, 2014 brought in an amendment to the Goa Agriculture tenancy Act providing for transfer of tenancy cases from mamlatdar courts to civil courts so as to help dispose of thousands of tenancy cases pending disposal for decades. To help early disposal of cases the government had provided a sunset clause of three years for receipt of claims from the disputing parties. The sunset clause was later removed following widespread criticism from public. With the judges manning senior courts beginning to hear the cases, nearly 23 per cent cases went against the tenants and there was a hue and cry that the cases be repatriated to the courts of mamlatdars. The government had taken note of the public resentment against its earlier decision to transfer the cases to the courts and decided to tweak the law to make hearing of cases public friendly and changed the law once again. Despite the fact that the changes to the Act was made to help the tenants, their associations have demanded that the amendments made to the law in 2014 and 2017 be revoked immediately and the old process restored. This may not help the cause of either the tenants or the landlords as there is possibility of cases remaining undecided for a long time as was the case in the past.
The authorities need to realize that transferring of cases from one judicial authority to another will not help in their early disposal. The government has been promising recruitment of special mamlatdars for a long time now to handle tenancy cases but has not asked the Goa Public Service Commission yet for the purpose. Even if the requisition is sent to the GPSC now it will take minimum six to eight months for the selection process to be completed and appointments made thereafter. As most of the officials will be new recruits they will have to be trained in handling the cases which will take another few more months and the actual process of disposal could begin only after a year unless the government decides to allocate the cases to serving mamlatdars. The government ought to also recruit additional staff to support the quasi-judicial officials to discharge their duties efficiently. Together with the mamlatdars the government should start the process for recruitment of subordinate staff too. The authorities need to realize that transferring of cases from one judicial authority to another will not help in their early disposal. What is needed is a systematic approach and a clear cut roadmap to help the litigants.
With divergent views on the issue of settlement of cases, fears are being expressed by the litigants that the issue could remain unresolved for a long time. Besides, legal experts have opined that the recent amendment has been aimed at controlling mamlatdars and getting cases disposed to suit some vested interests. Legal experts feel that the government should have continued with the courts for settlement of the tenancy cases but it perhaps chose to please the larger audience of tenants for political benefits. Now that the law has been changed the government should ensure that the cases are speedily heard and disposed of. It should expedite the process of recruitment of the mamlatdars and subordinate staff and train them adequately in the process of disposing of the matters before them. Besides, as many tenants have not been able to produce documentary evidence to substantiate their cases, the government ought to come out with a solution that would be acceptable before law to hold their deposition valid under the law. Unless a proper system is evolved the litigation would continue indefinitely, much to the chagrin of the litigants. The government should not to play to the gallery but help litigants find solution to their problems as early as possible.