While referring the plea to a PIL Bench, the Court observed that these false claims are being raised since there is no accountability of any government officer making such claims.
By: Nidhi N Anand, Ramaiah College of Law
While expressing its shock at the number of false claims/defenses raised by the government in various cases, the Delhi High Court remarked that the same is done with impunity owing to the lack of accountability of government officers who raise such frivolous claims.
The single bench of Justice JR Midha, while referring the plea seeking implementation of the National Litigation Policy to the PIL Bench, observed that courts seldom take action against such officers raising false claims.
The order said that “All these cases shocked the conscience of this Court. It seems that the fake claims are raised with impunity due to the fact there’s no accountability of any Government officer for raising the fake claims and Courts seldom take any motion against the person concerned for raising fake claims/defenses.” Additionally, the court urged the government to take action in opposition to officials accountable for making such fake claims in court.
Justice Midha opined “This Court is of the prima facie view that whenever a false claim is raised by the Government, it causes immense injustice to the litigant seeking justice; it also puts an unnecessary burden on the Court and the Government also suffers but the concerned officer who has raised the false claim does not suffer any action. If the facts given by the officers are found to be false/incorrect by the Court, the Government shall consider taking action and the copy of the judgment be kept in the ACR file of the officer. This will ensure that the officer is held accountable for the actions taken by him in the Court case.”
It was observed that despite announcements being made by the government in 2010, no National Litigation Policy exists in place at present.
The court, relying on statistics available on Legal Information Management & Briefing System (LIMBS), a web-based portal set up through the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, gathered that there were 4,79,236 instances wherein the government became a party, while 2,055 compliance cases and 975 contempt cases had been pending as on June 8, 2021. It was further seen that the Finance Ministry has the highest number of cases (1,17,808), while Railways has the second-highest pendency, with 99,030 cases.
The court then went on to peruse the cases wherein the government had made false claims to the High Court. It was seen that in one such case which related to the demise of 3 people who had been sleeping at the pavement outside a railway station, the Railway Claims Tribunal had granted compensation to the families of the victims. Surprisingly, as per the record produced before the Court, the Senior Divisional Operational Manager (Coaching) had asked the DGM (Law) to attempt to avoid the FIR being followed up through the High Court and to ensure that the function of the Government of NCT of Delhi must be eliminated. The revelation blew a shock to the Court’s conscience which proceeded to grant reimbursement of Rs.18 lakh to the petitioners.
In the present case, Senior Advocate AS Chandhiok, who was appointed as Amicus Curiae for the Railways case, made submissions on accountability in government litigation. He said that the governments’ indifference has time and again compelled the citizens to approach courts for seeking relief. Therefore, Governments/Public Sector Undertakings have been enjoying the distinction of being the largest litigants before the courts.
The Amicus Curiae further submitted that the 13th Finance Commission had opined the necessity of all state governments to frame state litigation policies that will aim at facilitating responsible litigation while encompassing steps to review existing cases and withdrawing cases recognized as frivolous and vexatious.
But the Central Govt.’s standing counsel, Kirtiman Singh, apprised the court of the non-existence of a litigation policy at present as he went on to state that the 2010 Policy had never been implemented.
Lastly, the Court placed reliance on the National Litigation Policy that was formulated in 2010 and reviewed in 2015. The same was highlighted by the Supreme Court in Union of India vs. Pirthwi Singh, wherein it was observed “The website of the Department of Justice shows that the National Litigation Policy, 2010 is being reviewed and formulation of the National Litigation Policy, 2015 is under consideration. When this will be finalized is anybody’s guess. There is also an Action Plan to Reduce Government Litigation which was formulated on 13th June 2017.”