Cases involving central govt at courts record 100% jump in 1 year



Who is responsible for clogging up the courts in this country? It is government in general, at both Centre and states. The former however, is a 'repeat offender'. Consider this: Over the last one year, there has been an unprecedented 100 per cent jump in the cases involving the central government - swamping the courts and raising an alarm in legal circles.  
As per Legal Information Management and Briefing System (LIMBS), the central government is a party in 2,71,861 lawsuits across the country. In June last year the figure stood at 1,35,060 - almost half. In a letter addressed to his Cabinet colleagues, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had recently said, "The government must cease to be a compulsive litigant... The judiciary is spending most of its time in tackling cases where the government is a party, and the burden on the judiciary can only be reduced if the cases are filed after taking a careful and considered view". Alarmed at the sudden rise in government litigation, Attorney-General K K Venugopal has advised Additional Solicitor-Generals (ASGs) to ensure that ministries do not file frivolous appeals in any matters and contest cases where only the government's policy decisions are under challenge. As per process, if an appeal has to be filed by a Central ministry or a department, it approaches the law ministry which seeks the opinion of one of the ASGs. The appeal is filed if the opinion of the ASG is positive. Law ministry sources said that to give an impetus to this case reduction goal, a nodal officer has been appointed in each department to keep track of disputes in which that particular department is involved. The officer's job is to avoid filing appeals except in cases that involve a substantial policy matter, and withdrawal of vexatious litigation.The ministry is also making efforts to ensure that cases being fought internally (within the government or among PSUs) are settled out-of-court using alternate dispute redress mechanisms. Of the 2,71,861 cases, the ministry of railways is the biggest 'contributor' - being a party in 96,685 pending lawsuits of which 20,464 are more than a decade old. Five other ministries with the most number of cases are finance (35,651), communications (22,642), home affairs (21,668), defence (6,433) and health & family welfare (8,275). While the country's courts battle a backlog of more than 3.3 crore cases, the government - at both Centre and states - is the single-biggest litigant, being a party in nearly 50 per cent of these.So, technically speaking, if Central and state governments indeed manage to withdraw cases, the national pendency will come down by half.

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