The Modi government intends to discourage departments from running to superior courts at the drop of the hat and instead, first carry out an honest assessment to see if it really has a case.
The principle — to be adopted into a new litigation policy finalised by the law ministry — is aimed at reducing the number of cases that the government files in courts, and then, files appeals when it loses cases.
Essentially, it has mindlessly contributed to clogging the judicial system rather than being part of the solution.
Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court has a pendency of 61,000 cases, the high courts have 4.1 million cases and the subordinate courts have 264 million cases on the civil and criminal side.
At a presentation before the parliamentary panel on law & personnel, law secretary, PK Malhotra, detailed the Modi government’s thinking towards becoming an efficient, and more importantly, responsible litigants.
“The underlying purpose is to enable the courts and tribunals to use their valuable time for resolving pending cases where the government is not the party,” Malhotra told the panel.
In principle, the law ministry has also proposed to depute its law officers to different departments so that they could be at hand to advise them.
In practice, this might not be as easy since every second post of a legal adviser at the law ministry is missing. And recruitment process alone takes as much as 18 months.
Rajya Sabha member EM Sudarsana Natchiappan — who heads the parliamentary panel — told Hindustan Times that the panel had extended its full support to this initiative but wanted the governance bar to be raised too.
“There is this tendency within the civil services to encourage litigation… to push the other side to go to court and get a judicial order to insulate themselves from any wrongdoing,” Natchiappan said. And if they don’t want to do something, keep on filing appeals.
“We have advised the law ministry to address this issue,” he said.
A lawyer by training, Natchiappan also told the law ministry to get cracking on its project to create a database of cases filed, or contested by different departments in the courts.
“Today, no one has a clue how many cases the Centre is fighting,” he said.