TK Viswanathan, (61), the senior most Indian Legal Services (ILS) officer in the country, is the first-ever advisor to the Law Minister. He holds the distinction of having held the top position of Secretary in all three wings of the ministry — Legal, Legislative Affairs and the Law Commission. HT spoke to Viswanathan about his new role, following his retirement as Law Secretary in October, a post he held for three years.
What are the main challenges faced by the ministry?
In Indian context, the Law Ministry has a complex role of being the legal advisor to all ministries and managing the government related litigation in courts. The main challenge is to overcome the shortage of manpower and acquire the necessary expertise.
Inadequacies in the legal system are being exposed in cases like that of Ruchika. How would the ministry respond to such situations?
There are no permanent solutions to problems in the legal system. Law has to progress by responding swiftly to changes. The first thing required is that the Law Ministry should be equipped to respond quickly to observations by courts so that the impression of Law lacking in action could be dispelled.
What is the roadmap to equip the ministry with such an expertise?
The most important reform required is to overhaul the Indian Legal Services. We need to change the way ILS officers are recruited. I have
suggested that the selection should be based on written tests and interviews conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), like for the Civil Services.
Do you think the ILS is lucrative enough to attract young talent, which prefers to join top law firms and big lawyers ?
This misconception needs to be dispelled. We will provide enough incentives to young ILS officers, ranging from specialised courses in top American and British universities to allowing them to be a part of the government decision making. ILS officers have an enormous responsibility of drafting new laws which should pass the scrutiny test of parliament and courts.
Will the government have legal minds in future to match the best in the market ?
That will depend on the success of reforms. Legal expertise required to meet government demands requires a certain type of loyalty, which blossoms only after years of experience of serving the government. In national interest, government expertise should prevail over private money.