The cabinet is to take up a law ministry proposal that aims to dispose of in three years cases involving the Centre and also minimise litigation by the government, the country’s biggest litigant.
The new litigation policy — the draft of which has been seen by HT — wants the government to be a facilitator of justice and not a blocker by being a “compulsive litigant”.
“We want to transform government as an institution which does not believe in entering into unnecessary and avoidable litigation by taking appropriate steps at pre-litigation stage itself,” a law ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The move will go a long way in reducing the burden on an overworked judiciary battling poor infrastructure, shortage of judges and a huge backlog.To push the change, the policy draft recommends setting up of a national legal mission that will define broader reforms and also ensure their implementation through an empowered committee at the national level and six regional panels.
“The ministries will have to adhere to the policy direction on filing of cases and appeals provided by the mission,” a government official said.
More than 30 million cases are pending in various courts of the country and the government is a party in almost half of these cases. Of these, about 26 million are pending in lower courts.
Typically, on an average it takes 15 years for such cases to be settled, a big drain on resources.
The government is of the opinion that most cases can be disposed of in three years.
According to government officials, the policy -- for the first time – calls for cost-analysis benefit before filing of a case.
It says the government should avoid moving court if legal costs outweigh financial gains arising out of a favourable judgment.
The government, said officials, often ends up spending huge amounts of money to deny a small financial benefit to an employee.
A large number of cases involve unhappy employees taking the government to court over salary or pension benefits or promotions.
The policy -- first mooted by the UPA on the recommendations of the law commission -- will encourage government counsels to go to courts prepared, armed with necessary documents on the first day of hearing itself. They would also be asked not to ask for rescheduling of hearings on flimsy grounds.
Out-of-court settlements, whenever feasible, would also be looked into.
Each ministry will get a nodal officer whose word would be final in legal matters as well as decisions on moving court. A mechanism will also be in place to reduce litigation and delays.
Officials tend to play safe and leave it to courts to take the final call on matters involving legal interpretation. Nodal officials would help curb this practice, sources said.
Most of the ministries have approved the policy draft which has been circulated for the cabinet’s approval.