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Litigation Expenditure by Govt Goes Up by Three Times During NDA Regime

According to the Ministry of Law and Justice, government departments, both at Centre and in states, are a party to around 46 percent of court cases.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:July 25, 2018, 9:11 AM IST
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Law and IT Minister, India Elections, Fake News, Cambridge Analytica Scam, Technology News
File photo of Ravi Shankar Prasad. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: There has been a three-fold rise in the expenditure incurred by the Central government in contesting cases in the Supreme Court during the current regime of the NDA.

Even as the Modi government has repeatedly expressed its resolve to cut down government litigation, the public money spent in fighting government litigation has seen a sharp rise in the last three years.

While the expenditure incurred on litigation in the top court for the year 2014-15 was Rs 15.99 Crore, it rose to Rs 47.99 Crore in 2017-18. The spurt is almost three times.

According to the government's own statistics, for 2015-16, the money spent by the government was Rs 26.86 Crore whereas for 2016-17, it came to be Rs 32.06 Crore.

The amount includes lawyers' fees and other expenditure incurred by the Central Agency Section in the Supreme Court to file cases and other documents.

The trend is worrisome for the present government because all its senior functionaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, have issued several statements on bringing down the government's litigation as a policy measure.

According to the Ministry of Law and Justice, government departments, both at Centre and in states, are a party to around 46 percent of court cases.

Last year, Law Minister Prasad wrote to his Cabinet colleagues and all chief minsters to find ways to reduce litigation.

“It is time the ministries shed the tag of being a compulsive litigant…the judiciary has to spend its maximum 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, " Prasad's letter had stated.

Before him, Prime Minister Modi had in October 2016 termed the government as the biggest litigant and pushed for a need to lessen the load on the judiciary which spends its maximum time in tackling cases where the government is a party.

Subsequently, the Law Ministry moved proposal to the Cabinet seeking the creation of integrated legal divisions (ILDs) in all government ministries and departments to impart legal advice and pre-empt litigation at the point of origin.

Earlier this month, the government sharply increased the monetary threshold for filing appeals in tax disputes in various courts and decided to withdraw many pending appeals to cut down litigation and improve ease of doing business.

The continuous rise in the expenditure however indicates that the efforts have so far not borne fruits and that an implementable action plan needs to be put in place after identifying litigation-prone departments and providing solutions unique to each department.

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