State has a responsibility towards the citizen, who should not treated as opposite party or rival. It is not proper to take every case in appeal up to apex court mechanically, simply because there is a provision in Civil Procedure Code. It has to introspect and answer whether it was behaving like a ‘responsible litigant’ with the citizen?
As pointed out by Hon’ble Justice TS Thakur, Judge of Supreme Court, there is no mechanism to scrutinize the cases which need to be contested and which not to be. It is rightly said that that large number of cases against state “cannot be a good sign of good governance” (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/indiaothers/governmentisthebiggestlitigantinthecountryscjudge/Feb 12, 2015). Commission would like to quote Justice Thakur who said: “Every case filed irrespective of merits is burdening the judiciary, costing the exchequer and increasing the pendency of case. This is deficit in governance. Governance is not just army, police, road, building etc but governance also is adjudicating rights of a citizen which is legitimately due to him.” The respondent authority has a duty to tell the people whether they have any mechanism to examine each case before contesting a citizen or appealing the judgment given in favour of citizen. Do they have such mechanism?
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
ROOM NO 315, BWING, AUGUST KRANTI BHAWAN
BHIKAJI CAMA PLACE, NEW DELHI-110066
SHRI SURESH KUMAR RANGI
DEPARTMENT OF LEGAL AFFAIRS GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, NEW DELHI
Date of hearing : 23.12.2014
Date of decision: 17.02.2015
Information Commissioner: Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar)
Referred Sections : Sections 19(3) of the RTI Act
Result : Appeal allowed/disposed of
The appellant is present. The Public Authority is represented by Mr. K. G. Thang, CPIO.
2. The Appellant through his RTI application dated 04.09.2013 had sought for inspection relating to i) letter no. 24 dt 12.04.2013 ii) letter dated 14.11.2012 iii) implementation of National Litigation Policy – 2010 and certified copy of the same. Having received no reply within the prescribed period, the appellant preferred First Appeal on 14.10.2013. FAA by his Order dated 25.10.2013 directed the PIO to furnish the complete information. Appellant vide his letter dated 25.11.2013 informed the PIO that he had been allowed inspection of one file only and with respect to other files, no inspection was offered to him. Being unsatisfied with the information furnished, the appellant has approached the Commission in Second Appeal.
3. Both the parties made their submissions. The appellant submitted that he belonged to a NGO by name Sajat Bharat. They are interested in the progress of implementation of National Litigation Policy 2010, according to which the Government is required to take step to appoint Nodal Officers in different Departments of the Government including the State Governments, and to scrutinise/review those litigations pending in various courts and filter them as per the public interest to avoid wastage of public money & time.
4. The respondent authority submitted that necessary steps are being taken to implement the National Litigation Policy-2010 and the Government already constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of the Attorney General of India, which would review the pending cases and submit a report to the Government.
5. On 25th November 2013, appellant was provided inspection of one file while another file was not available. Appellant complained that he was not given copies which he sought after inspection, that there was no response to his request dated 3rd December 2013, and 6.1.2014. Therefore he approached the Commission with complaint and in second appeal. Main complaint is that CPIO and FAA failed to supply certified copy of the documents which were already available in the file as shown during inspection, and other file was not shown even after they held it.
6. It is surprising as to why the respondent authorities are not ready to show the concerned files about implementation status of the National Litigation Policy? If they could not provide inspection initially because the policy is under consideration, why did not they show after deciding to implement the policy? As per media reports, there are 2,73,60,814 cases pending in District & Subordinate Courts, while 44,79,023 cases in High Courts and 65,970 are pending in Supreme Court.
7. While the Chief Justice of India advised judicial officers to contribute their part in resolving pendency, the Law Ministry also came forward to withdraw frivolous cases the government both at centre and states filed in courts of law. Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Sri H L Dattu expressed concern over the huge pendency of cases in the courts and said the delivery of justice must be handled by the judiciary through reform and adoption of modern tools along with emphasis on social values. He urged the members of the judiciary to apply their minds and talents to tackle the problem. Though there was no dearth of legal minds in the country, there was still criticism that the delivery of justice was slow and ineffective, he said. (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/highpendencyofcasesplaguesjudiciarycji/ article6689072.ece)
8. It is reported that the Ministry of Law and Justice asked various departments to set up empowered committees to review and suggest withdrawals. The Law Ministry also stated to have written to chief justices of high courts to advise judges to invoke Section 258 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) which relates to the ‘power to stop proceedings and remove deadwood from judicial system’ where it is necessary.
9. The Commission finds that it is not easy task to resolve pending litigation overnight or in near future, but the laudable policy initiated should be continuously implemented, so that citizens could find justice within their lifetime. Otherwise, justice seekers would lose hopes, while frivolous litigants dominate the field.
10. The Commission is of view that the Union Government has rightly addressed a vital aspect of the issue, i.e., that the state itself became a biggest litigant, either fighting a citizen or its own department or taking every case into appeal instead of performing the duty of addressing development and welfare of the people, who challenged its actions. While it is ideal that every litigant should be responsible, state is also expected to be a ‘Responsible litigant’, which means, “that litigation will not be resorted to for the sake of litigating, that false pleas and technical points will not be taken and shall be discouraged, ensuring that the correct facts and all relevant documents will be placed before the court, and that nothing will be suppressed from the court and there will be no attempt to mislead any court or Tribunal”.
The Policy says:
Litigation between Public Sector Undertakings inter se between Government Public Sector Undertakings is causing great concern. Every effort must be made to prevent such litigation. Before initiating such litigation, the matter must be placed before the highest authority in the public sector such as the CMD or MD. It will be his responsibility to endeavour to see whether the litigation can be avoided. If litigation cannot be avoided, then alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation must be considered. Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure must be resorted to extensively.
All pending cases involving Government will be reviewed. This Due Diligence process shall involve drawing upon statistics of all pending matters which shall be provided for by all Government departments (including PSUs). The Office of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General shall also be responsible for reviewing all pending cases and filtering frivolous and vexatious matters from the meritorious ones. The National mission for judicial reforms includes removing unnecessary Government cases, (http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=62745).
11. More precisely the policy outlines that the government must discard the easy approach ‘let the court decide’ and cease to be a compulsive litigant. The Commission is of the view that leaving matters to the courts for ultimate decision will amount to abdication of responsibility. The proclaimed 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 3 years.
12 . The Commission observes that the state has a responsibility towards the citizen, who should not treated as opposite party or rival. It is not proper to take every case in appeal up to apex court mechanically, simply because there is a provision in Civil Procedure Code. It has to introspect and answer whether it was behaving like a ‘responsible litigant’ with the citizen? As pointed out by Hon’ble Justice TS Thakur, Judge of Supreme Court, there is no mechanism to scrutinize the cases which need to be contested and which not to be. It is rightly said that that large number of cases against state “cannot be a good sign of good governance” (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/indiaothers/governmentisthebiggestlitigantinthecountryscjudge/Feb 12, 2015). Commission would like to quote Justice Thakur who said: “Every case filed irrespective of merits is burdening the judiciary, costing the exchequer and increasing the pendency of case. This is deficit in governance. Governance is not just army, police, road, building etc but governance also is adjudicating rights of a citizen which is legitimately due to him.” The respondent authority has a duty to tell the people whether they have any mechanism to examine each case before contesting a citizen or appealing the judgment given in favour of citizen. Do they have such mechanism?
13. The Commission finds a huge public interest in this RTI application, which should have been properly responded. In fact the appellant gave an opportunity to the public authority to explain the people about their efforts to reduce litigation and report the progress, for instance, how many cases or appeals are filed by state, how many of them are frivolous, how many were withdrawn, why state is routinely filing appeals against citizen increasing the burden of appellate courts, why vacancies are left out without appointing the judges in those posts, when the department knows the dates of retirement of judges and other employees in advance, why not they schedule a program of recruiting them by that date, etc.
14. The Commission finds a dire need to answer these questions which constitute the essence of the RTI request. It is in the interest of justice, nation and the public authority to prepare a comprehensive note on status of implementation of National Litigation Policy 2010 as on the date of this order and provide the same to the appellant, this Commission, and place it on the official website of the public authority, besides giving appellant the certified copies of the relevant papers regarding progress of implementation of the policy, within one month from the date of receipt of this order. The Commission also recommends periodical updating of this note after collecting necessary inputs from the states.
15. The Commission rejects the complaint because, the PIO cannot decide this major issue at his level, PIO was responding, offering inspection etc. However, the Commission directs the PIO to avoid delays as far as possible, or communicate the reason for delay, if it was beyond his control.
16. The appeal is disposed of.
(M Sridhar Acharyulu)