Published On: Wed, Aug 1st, 2018

Former chief justice Thakur calls for a litigation policy for government

New Delhi: Former chief justice of India T S Thakur today advocated framing a litigation policy for the government, the biggest litigant in the country, to decide in an objective manner the cases which have to be contested up to the Supreme Court as “no officer is ready to take a decision” on whether the cases merit an appeal.

Former chief justice of India T S Thakur today advocated framing a litigation policy for the government the biggest litigant in the country

He said the officers were afraid to take any objective decision on whether to contest a case further because he might be questioned on his actions later.

Justice Thakur, speaking at the release of a book, ‘The Wheel of Justice’, penned by former law minister M Veerappa Moily, said the state might continue spending money and contest cases up to the Supreme Court just because there was no mechanism to protect the officers who take the decision.

“The problem is no officer today is ready to take a decision. Let’s say there is a major case and an officer might feel that if he takes a decision today, then tomorrow he can be accused for taking an unfair decision. A decision which may not be in public interest.

“So he thinks, the best is to leave it to the courts. Let the courts decide. If the first court decides in favour of the citizen, then the state will go to the appellate court and finally to the Supreme Court,” Thakur said.

He said the state would continue spending money to contest it right up to the apex court because “there lies the security of the officer”.

“Because he can then say that he did his best. If you leave the decision making process to an officer under the prevailing circumstances, the higher authorities like CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) may question you. You will always find an officer hesitant in taking a decision,” he said.

Elaborating on the point of litigation policy, Thakur said that the governments, be it the Centre or the state, were the biggest litigants because citizens were not getting what was legitimately due from the state and were forced to approach the court.

“Why can’t the state be sensitive and responsive. Why can’t the state evolve a mechanism where it decides the fair and objective merits of the case of a citizen on whether it is going to contest the case or not,” Justice Thakur said.

He called for a mechanism comprising a “group of people whose integrity is beyond doubt” and suggested that the retired judges could be used to take a decision on such cases and its appeals and save the government officer.

“The Supreme Court judges, high court judges who have retired and sent home at a young age of 62 years are all available. They can take a decision. Shift the decision-making mechanism from a government officer to an independent body,” Justice Thakur said.

Justice Sikri, who also spoke on the occasion, said that the mindless manner in which the government departments were filing appeals must be changed.

He mentioned about a Special Leave Petition from the Income Tax department which came before his bench recently in a matter in which the apex court had earlier decided against the government.

“The SLP was filed in a case which had attained finality. I had imposed a cost of Rs 50,000 on the Income Tax Department and dismissed the petition and asked it to be shown to the concerned authorities so that they come out with a proper policy on why they are filing all kinds of such appeals in a mindless manner,” Justice Sikri said, adding that the “mindset has to be changed”.

“Any officer could have written one line that the Supreme Court had already decided this issue. But instead an SLP was filed. This is where we need reforms,” he added.

PTI

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