ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Government as an ‘Efficient and Responsible’ Litigant

Challenges and the Way Forward

In the light of the growing recognition that government litigation constitutes a big burden on both the judiciary and the government, a Draft National Litigation Policy was formulated in 2010 with the objective to transform the government into an efficient and responsible litigant. Following this, the Government of Madhya Pradesh brought out a State Litigation Policy. In this context, the challenges for the government in realising this goal and the factors responsible for increasing litigation and untenable “causes of action” are examined, with broader relevance for the rest of the country.

The author would like to express her sincere gratitude to colleagues and mentors at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis, Bhopal for their valuable inputs to the study. The author also thanks the anonymous reviewer whose comments helped in enhancing the rigour of the paper. 

Krishna Iyer has observed, way back in 1974 in a Supreme Court judgment delivered in Dilbagh Rai v Union of India (1974), that the state is the largest litigant in the country. As this leads to a huge expenditure on the public exchequer, he urged for “finer sense and sensibility” in its litigation policy. The Law Commission of India (LCI 1988) in its “One Hundred and Twenty Sixth Report on Government and Public Sector Undertaking Litigation Policy and Strategies” took cognisance of the fact that the government and the public sector undertakings (PSUs) constitute the major litigants in the country. This results in a situation whereby the courts’ dockets are clogged with litigation undertaken or contested by the government—both central and state—and PSUs. In addition to imposing a huge load on an already overburdened judiciary, thereby hindering the effective delivery of justice, unproductive government litigation, as the Law Commission observes, eats away a large chunk of scarce resources which could have been employed for socially beneficial schemes. Also, it stresses on the need for the government to eschew litigious culture considering that the fight between an individual and the

government, with the latter having huge resources at its disposal, is by no means an equal fight (LCI 1988).

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Updated On : 17th Apr, 2019
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