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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Attorney General would aim to reduce Govt vs Citizen litigation

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A whiff of fresh air. The New Attorney General of India, Ghoolam E Vahanvati, a rock music fan and a lawyer of repute, has stated reduction of govt filed litigation as one of his top KRAs.

As we all know, govt is the biggest litigant in the country. Many-a-times, there are issues which should just not be taken to court, but are, and ultimately result in unnecessary wastage of Court time, govt and private resources. In fact, the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court had recently slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on the Haryana State for filing a ‘frivolous appeal’ against a citizen.

The problem with us is that we treat court matters against a backdrop of upmanship. A citizen getting his predicament addressed through a court results in triggering of a strange form of egotism in govt departments, which without any application of mind, ensure that they take the issue to a higher judicial level, whether they are right or wrong.

This happens in every organisation. A detailed must-read blog on the same problem within the defence establishment can be accessed by clicking here. The problem requires a change in mindset. Legal advisors in various departments need to be briefed that firstly issues that can be addressed in-house should be and citizens & employees should not be forced to approach Hon’ble Courts of Law. Secondly, the govt legal mechanism should be sensitised that their duty is not to ‘win’ cases in Courts but to assist the Hon’ble Courts in arriving at justice, and once justice is rendered, it should not lead to egotism but introspection as to what went wrong in-house.


BC said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,
Well said. This is what is happening now a days. The honorable court has rightly imposed the fine, in fact there should have been some punishments also which should have been awarded to the people who were responsible.
At least in our country people and the set up they are working in, deserve this kind of treatment.

VNatarajan, President, Pensioners' Forum (affil. to AIFPA Chennai Regd.), Chennai said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,

You have put up the write-up/blog at the appropriate time. One of the glaring examples of unwanted Govt. provoked/ sponsored/ contested litigation is the repetetive deprival of Pension Parity to the old, helpless(physically/ mentally/ financially/ logistically (for legal matters)), aged,pensioners- both CIVIL and MILITARY included. This offence is perpetrated by the Govt./ its Babus much against well known/ land-mark judgments of the Supreme Court/High Courts/CATs in several such cases, against the relevant Articles of the Constitution, and even against ots own Rules under the concerned Act!. You are aware of the fiasco of the Sixth Pay Commssion Pre-2006Pensioners' woes and also the nearly akin OROP demands. WHEN WILL THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ACT WITH AN IRON HAND AGAINST THE ERRING GOVT. FUNCTIONARIES? Even the somewhat purposeful/ effective RTI Act Provisions found to be inconvenient to the Babus are perhaps being diluted with the blessings of Hon. top CEO of the country!

Kartik said...

I will not mince words…

The purpose of a military trial is to ‘fix’. The onus to prove the accused guilty lies with the court. Failure to prove guilt would invite wrath for the Presiding Officer. Simply put – It’s Self Defence.

The good old principle that unless proven guilty, you are innocent may really not hold good in army. Military trial is itself a punishment – the sad part being that often it is aimed at that. An innocent will be proved guilty… correctly put… will bloody well be proved guilty!

Power corrupts. It does so because many ‘common people’ holding very powerful appointments forget that they are mere holders ie custodians of appointments. It is because they start ‘feeling’ powerful themselves that their ego is hurt when a court overturns their decision. The mindless appeal to the courts is manifestation of ego and vengeance. If the civil court does slaps a fine… does it really matter? The person who took the decision to go ahead with the appeal would have been posted out and the money shall ‘be paid’ from one Govt coffer to another! What is the accountability of individuals who manned the kangaroo court in the first place and of those who went ahead with irrational appeal? Should they not be penalized?

As long as army is personality oriented, justice will not come easy. With AFT, I hope we see justice at the end of the day.

BC said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,
Hope you are aware that members for the AFT have been nominated, their names are there in the MoD web site. I wish the AFT gets the similar success and popularity as the RTI act has achieved.
I understand that the aim of forming the AFT is quicker and affordable justice to the armed force personnel.
One doubt still remains. Quicker justice is understandable but how it would be affordable is debatable. During the trial who would be representing the defence? Is it the defending officer or the friend of the accused? If the accused has to rely again on a civil council, he will have to probably land up paying a hefty sum. If you say it is the defending officer or the friend of the accused, then again they would be under the influence of their command? Otherwise, I feel that the accused has to competent himself to fight the case which may not be every time possible in case of PBOR.
Or there is something I am missing, please educate me.

BC said...

Well said, but what is the solution. I thing the erring persons shpuld be dragged and heavily penalized, where ever they are, even if they have gone to hell/heaven.
It is really frustrating. Hope, the AFT will get the similar popularity and recognition as we see the RTI is getting.

Beniwal said...

Navdeep has said all. I wish to bring one case to your notice that Hon'ble court granted pension to 4 officers last april but service refused to pay the pension and shockingly the JAG filed the review. Filing the review is easy since the deptt. officers do not have to pay the lawyers fee, govt. pays but the poor retired fauji without getting pension has to arrange large money to pay the lawyers. it is nothing but to harrass the person and discourage others and to gain some good points in the eyes of higher ups who have no idea how babus there are keeping control over them. not obeying the court only shows how ego is playing with the life of vetarans. service/JAG should obey the High court and file review/go to apex court only if the order is against the law/constitution and not for personal ego. otherwise JAG/individual officer not obeying court orders must be made to pay lawyer fees and other expences incured fighting the case. otherwise JAG honestly must advise service for not going into litigation for the sake of ego.

Beniwal said...

after i wrote the above, i found the following worth reading in ToI 26/6/09: law minister Veerapa moily's statement about removing the tag of govt. being the largest litigant is welcome. it is distressing that unmeritorious appeals are filed in the supreme court dragging govt. servants, common citizens and marginalised sections of society to the SC because the bureaucrat concerned is not personally satisfied with the judgement. earlier, guidelines had been laid down that generally the judgement of HC should be accepted as final, except in particular instances:where the issue relates to the constitutionality of a statute; where there was judicial divergence of opinion on a question of law which needed to be resolved by the SC; where the issue was of a recurring nature which had serious fiscal implications in the future;where the judgement of the HC was, on the face of it , outrageous and un conscionable. if the concerned dett. files a SLP contrary to the advice of the law officer,the concerned officer should be made accountable unless there are compelling reasons for having doing so. the law minister should put in place a strict system to eliminate filling of frivolous appeals to the apex court and adding to its burden as well as increasing mounting arrears. Soli J Sorabjee, former Attorney-general of India