The rap from the Supreme Court of India in a recently decided case saying that the government must shape up its litigation policy and cease to be a compulsive litigant, is a clear indictment of the Union Government. The Court has observed that the Union of India must appreciate that by pursuing frivolous or infructuous cases, it is adding to the burden of this Court and collaterally harming other litigants by delaying hearing of their cases through the sheer volume of numbers. Government litigation reportedly constitutes nearly half of all litigation in the Indian judiciary. If the Union of India cares little for the justice delivery system, it should at least display some concern for litigants, many of whom have to spend a fortune in litigating in the Supreme Court. What is needed is an implementable action plan to ensure that common people are not forced to file cases against the government and its agencies and to find out litigation-prone departments and formulating solutions unique to each department. Any attempt to reduce the backlog would be applauded once “litigation for the sake of litigation” is shunned. To reduce government litigations which burden the national exchequer, Central ministries need to ensure that courts are approached only as a last resort and cases, where chances of winning are lean are not pursued. The pendency of cases in courts besides being burden upon public exchequer also diverts attention of government from meaningful governance.
Ironically, the website of the Department of Justice shows that the National Litigation Policy, 2010 is still being reviewed. It shows that nothing has been finalised by the Union of India for the last almost about eight years and under the garb of ease of doing business, the judiciary is being asked to reform. The boot is really on the other leg. The aim of the “National Litigation Policy” (NLP) is to transform the government into a “responsible and efficient” litigant. This concept obligates the government to be a model litigant. The policy idealistically suggests an implementation mechanism, greater accountability regarding governmental litigation, and mandates “suitable action” against officials violating this policy. The website also shows that the formulation of the National Litigation Policy, 2015 is under consideration. When this will be finalised is anybody’s guess. There is also an Action Plan to reduce government litigation which was formulated on June 13, 2017. However, all these measures have not yet seen the light of the day. The reasons could be varied. It seems that the disinterested bureaucracy is not sufficiently motivated to come out with a comprehensive and foolproof Policy. But could a disinterested bureaucracy be an excuse for not acting on a pressing issue?