After years in work, law ministry clears litigation policy document

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New Delhi, Jun 11 (PTI) After going back to the drawing board on several occasions, the Union Law Ministry finalised on Tuesday a document on the national litigation policy that seeks to expedite the resolution of pending cases.

Soon after assuming charge as the Union law minister earlier in the day, Arjun Ram Meghwal signed the national litigation policy "document".

The policy document will be placed before the Union Cabinet in the coming days for its approval.

The policy is part of the 100-day agenda of the Modi 3.0 government, sources said.

Interacting with reporters soon after taking charge, Meghwal said a key priority of the ministry would be faster justice in matters pending in the Supreme Court, high courts, lower courts, tribunals and consumer courts.

A senior functionary said the issues flagged by the minister relating to the pendency of cases have been conceptualised in the document. "It was the first file he wanted to sign," the official said.

The national litigation policy has been drafted and redrafted over several years with successive governments deliberating on its contours.

"There is a factor of ease of living in all the stakeholders related to litigation... All stakeholders, including litigants, advocates and others are part of it... the ministry has finalised the policy document," Meghwal said.

In the UPA II, the then-law minister M Veerappa Moily came out with a national litigation policy but it never went forward. While Moily had come out with the policy, he did not send it for the Union Cabinet's approval.

Later, when the document went to the Cabinet, no decision was taken on it.

An official statement issued on June 23, 2010, said that the Centre has formulated a National Litigation Policy to reduce the cases pending in various courts in India under the National Legal Mission to reduce the average pendency time from 15 years to three years.

According to the 'vision' of the 2010 policy, it was based on the recognition that the government and its various agencies are the pre-dominant litigants in courts and tribunals in the country.

"Its aim is to transform government into an efficient and responsible litigant. This policy is also based on the recognition that it is the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of citizens, to respect fundamental rights and those in charge of the conduct of government litigation should never forget this basic principle," it had said.

When the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, the law ministry sent a fresh cabinet note on the policy and it has been pending since then.

"There have been demands for a national litigation policy as there were allegations that frivolous cases are filed in the courts by the government as officers do not like to take a decision on sensitive issues. The policy is necessary to check the pendency in courts," former Union law secretary P K Malhotra told PTI.

Responding to a question about arbitration, Meghwal said the government is working towards making India an arbitration hub and some laws have been tweaked to enable the plans.

"Why can't the disputes (under arbitration) be settled here? Why should Indians go to Singapore, Dubai or London for arbitration," he said.

A national litigation policy has been part of the BJP's manifesto since 2014. PTI NAB IJT

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