The Centre has launched a nationwide drive to reduce the number of cases pending in courts by curtailing the zeal of governments and its departments in filing litigations. Union Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written to all union ministers and state chief ministers to launch ‘special arrears clearance drives’ to reduce pending cases and minimise fresh litigation.
The government and its departments are litigants in nearly half (46%) of the 3.14 crore litigations pending in different courts in the country leading to a huge cost to the government, Prasad wrote last week.
The law ministry reasons that pendency of cases can be brought down, simply by reducing cases originating from within the government or making it a party to a case.
The state governments and union ministries should identify “frivolous and vexatious matters and separate them from matters with merit,” he wrote. “The government must cease to be a compulsive litigant and executive power should be made use to reduce the grievance of the future litigant.” Virtually spelling out that “litigation is the last resort” will be the government’s policy going forward, Prasad has asked his counterparts in other ministries to ensure that departments under them use alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation to reduce litigation against the government.
Underlining the seriousness of the drive, Prasad has also asked all ministries and states to submit quarterly compliance reports on reducing pendency by withdrawing, settling or disposing of cases. “I am directing the secretary justice to hold meetings with all ministries/departments to review this matter regularly,” he wrote.
The government has come under sharp criticism by the apex court for not filling vacancies in the judiciary leading to pile up of cases. With a stand-off between the judiciary and the executive persisting over appointment of judges, the government has come up with this plan to reduce pending cases.