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Secretaries' Panel Clears Litigation Policy

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The National Litigation Policy which seeks to reverse the trend of government being the biggest litigant has been cleared by a committee of secretaries and will now go to a ministerial panel.
The committee chaired by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, which met here on Tuesday evening, cleared the Law Ministry proposal.
It has now been referred to a high-powered informal group of ministers comprising Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, sources in the government told the news agency.
After being approved by the ministers' panel, the National Litigation Policy, 2015 will be sent to the Union cabinet for a final nod.
Soon after the Narendra Modi government came to power in May last year, it had identified reducing government litigations as one of its priorities in a bid to streamline the judicial system of the country.
The proposed policy, which seeks to replace the one brought by the previous UPA government, will bring in a mechanism to reduce government litigation and to make it an efficient and responsible litigant.
The UPA government had launched the policy in 2010 but it could not be implemented in totality. Now, the present government is working on it to reduce the burden of the courts for better deliverance. The policy will help all the Union Ministries and Departments define types of cases to be pursued in courts and those which need to be dropped after review.
The policy suggests a mechanism to reduce filing of cases by or against the government.
The proposed policy also aims to transform government into an institution which does not believe in entering into unnecessary and avoidable litigation by taking appropriate steps at pre-litigation stage itself.
Due to the very high number of pending court cases in different courts, a new policy has become an utmost necessity, a recent presentation made by the Law Ministry before a parliamentary panel had said.
Several members of the consultative committee on law and justice had stressed the need on taking action against government counsel for their "casual approach" during the litigation process and said that a provision be made for submitting the status report of court cases by the nodal officers to the head of departments on a regular basis.
Most of the states have gone ahead with their respective policies based on the 2010 draft of the law ministry.
Though there are no official figures available as of now, law ministry believes that government is a litigant in 46 per cent of the cases in higher judiciary.
57,179 cases were pending in the Supreme Court and 42,17,903 were pending in the 24 high courts at the end of 2011.
The government has also decided to attach law officers to various central ministries to ensure that courts are only approached as a last resort and cases where chances of winning are lean are not pursued.
They will take a "holistic view of litigation" while filing new cases or defending the pending cases.