NEW DELHI: To reduce the huge pendency of cases in the country, the government has decided to make itself an efficient and responsible litigant in every new case it would be filing in the future.
The government and its agencies are predominant parties to litigation in various courts and tribunals in the country. According to an estimate by the Department of Legal Affairs, it was submitted that the government is the litigant in almost 70 per cent of the total pending cases. These cases range from service-related matters to indirect taxes.
Under the new policy, it is proposed that law officers will be appointed in each department of the government of India to take a holistic view of litigation while filing new cases or defending the pending ones.
“The cases in which the government has a slim chance of winning need not be pursued further. The pendency of cases in courts, besides being burden upon public exchequer, also diverts attention of the government from meaningful governance,” a senior law ministry official said.
“To reverse this image, the government is proposing to have in place a system whereby every court case or order will be closely scrutinised within the department itself with a view to determine whether the matter be agitated further or should the decision of the court be accepted and implemented,” the official said .
Though the previous UPA government had launched a National Litigation Policy in 2010 to reduce pendency of cases where the government is a party, the policy was not been successful. The NDA’s revised National Litigation Policy is expected to help save time, money and energy of various government departments and reduce the burden on courts.
The government has also proposed to set up a web portal to make centralised data available where each ministry and department will be required to upload the details of cases pending in various courts and tribunals and the status of these cases. The Ministry of Law and Justice is also planning to decentralize the availability of legal assistance to the ministries by providing services of Indian legal services (ILS) officers in each ministry. Only sensitive matters will come to the main Secretariat of Department of Legal Affairs.
“These officers’ main work would be to scrutinize the cases where appeals need to be filed and decide whether the service of private lawyers is required or not. The posting of ILS officers would be productive, provided an accountability mechanism is built into the scheme so that ILS officers posted in the ministry are made responsible for legal viability of decisions taken by that ministry,” the official said.