NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday unveiled a national litigation policy that would dictate how it would reduce the burgeoning number of its court cases and act as "an efficient and a responsible" litigant.
The Union Law Minister, Mr M Veerappa Moily released the policy documents here and said the government had recognised the fact that it and its various agencies were predominant litigants in courts and tribunals across the country.
Of the over 2 crore cases pending in courts, 70 per cent of them involved the government as either petitioners or respondents.
"Its (the policy’s) aim is to transform government into an efficient and a responsible litigant," Mr Moily told a press conference here. The policy would be implemented from the beginning of next month and comes within a year of its national consultation for reducing pendency and delays in court cases in October last year.
Noting that the policy took into account the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of citizens and to respect fundamental rights, the Law Minister said those in-charge of the conduct of official litigation should never forget this basic principle.
He said under the new litigation policy the government would cease to be "a compulsive" litigant and expressed the hope that the state governments too would follow the Centre’s example and would come up with their own policy of this sort to reduce the number of cases pending in courts."The national litigation policy is framed with a view to ensure conduct of responsible litigation by the central government and urges every state government to evolve similar policies," the document said.
"The philosophy that ‘matters should be left to the courts for ultimate decision’ has to be discarded. The easy approach ‘let the court decide’ must be eschewed and condemned," it added.
The government would appoint empowered committees, to be chaired at the national level by the Attorney General, to monitor implementation of the policy and to fix accountability of the government departments to follow the principles laid down by the policy.
Mr Moily said the government lawyers would avoid seeking adjournments, except in the initial stages of the case when responses from the government departments were required on petitions.
"Unnecessary and frequent adjournments by government lawyers will be frowned upon and infractions dealt with seriously," he added.
Under the new litigation policy, the government would refrain from going in for appeals against ex-parte and interim orders, and instead make attempts to get those orders vacated.
Also, appeal against orders of tribunals, which were set up to remove the loads of courts, would be an exception and not a matter of routine.
Matters relating to individual grievances such as service related pleas, pensions and retirement benefits would not be appealed against.
The government, Mr Moily said, would also ensure that there were no delays in appeals where high revenue stakes were involved and the department heads would be responsible for timely filing of such appeals.
The government, he said, would encourage arbitration and alternative dispute resolution means to ensure quicker justice out of courts.
As an "efficient" litigant, the government would ensure that good cases are won and bad cases are not needlessly persevered with.
On the other hand, as a "responsible" litigant, it would not file cases for the sake of litigation and not harp on false pleas and technical points and discourage such practices.
More importantly, the government would not suppress from courts any information that it had on the matters under litigation and no attempt would be made to mislead the courts or tribunals.
"The purpose underlying this policy is also to reduce government litigation in courts so that valuable court time would be spent in resolving other pending cases so as to achieve the goal in the National Legal Mission to reduce average pendency time from 15 years to three years," the document said.
On appointment of government lawyers, it said persons recommending names of advocates for government empanelling should be careful to check credentials of those recommended with particular reference to their legal knowledge and integrity, as government panels could not be vehicles for sustaining incompetent and inefficient persons.
Advocates empanelled would be provided with sufficient and modern infrastructure to enable them to work efficiently and they would be put through training programmes to motivate them to play a meaningful role in government litigations and not merely be responsible for appearances in courts, it added.