Govt to remove ‘biggest litigant’ tag – Moily

New Delhi, Oct 25 Showing a serious effort to remove its tag of being India’s largest litigant, the central government Saturday said it was all set to adopt a national litigation policy “to transform itself from compulsive to reluctant litigant”.

“We propose to introduce a national litigation policy (NLP), where the government as the largest litigant will be transformed from a compulsive litigant to a responsible and reluctant litigant,” Law Minister Veerappa Moily said here while addressing a two-day seminar on legal reform.

The NLP will entrust the task of weeding out senseless litigation from the government’s docket to the office of the country’s top law officers — the attorney general of India and the solicitor general. This will be established as a full-fledged office, assisted by 52 lawyers and 26 law researchers.

Inaugurated by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, the seminar, titled National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary Towards Reducing Pendency and Delays, was attended by legal luminaries and judges from various courts across the country, including the subordinate courts.

The seminar saw the launch of a “vision statement” by the law minister on the issue of strengthening judiciary and reducing backlog of over 31 million cases, pending in the country’s three-tier judicial system.

Envisaging the reduction of the average adjudication period of cases by the judiciary from the present 15 years to three years, Moily also announced the government’s decision to set up a “national arrears grid” to identify arrears and the strategy for their reduction.

Moily said the government is presently in the process of gathering data from all its departments and state enterprises all over India in which the government is a party in any litigation at any level.

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“Statistics on pending matters have been called from each and every government departments including PSUs (public sector undertaking) and will be incorporated into an action plan,” said the minister, while disclosing the proposed role of country’s top law officer in weeding out senseless litigation.

Before Moily announced the government’s intention to launch a litigation policy, Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati candidly elaborated upon the government’s tendency to litigate at the drop of hat.

“It cannot be denied that government has become a compulsive litigant. There are several reasons for this. The Law Commission identified various reasons why the government became an irresponsible litigant. It said that in most cases, government litigated because of the utter indifference on the part of civil servants,” said Vahanvati.

“Sometimes, the government even pursued litigations as a matter of prestige. What was still worse is that often it did so with an attitude of vengeance or callousness bordering on vendetta. In several cases, the government officials had an attitude of arrogance and a superiority complex in litigating and litigating,” said Vahanvati.

He said that the government has become the largest litigant because government officials are wary of taking decisions and responsibility.

“It is easy to file a case in court and leave it to the courts to decide. There are so many reasons why this course of action is preferred. The most obvious is because it avoids the necessity of taking decisions, some of which can be awkward,” said the law officer.

“Cases are fought and appeals are filed even though the persons doing so are fully aware of the fact that there is no merit in the appeals. Officers taking such decisions just do not bother to imagine the consequences of routinely filing such an appeal,” he said.

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“There is no need to exercise responsibility. It (filing cases) is such an easy way out. This is initiated by a ‘chalta hai’ (anything goes) effort born out of a feeling of inertia which numbs the decision making process,” rued the attorney general.

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