Continuing legal education for Govt lawyers least priority
JAMMU, June 23: Notwithstanding the fact that litigation against State is increasing with every passing year and putting unnecessary burden on the judiciary as well as State exchequer, the Government has failed to come out with a mechanism to review the implementation of J&K State Litigation Policy, which was notified nearly seven years back with the primary objective of reversing the prevailing trend and transforming Government into an efficient and responsible litigant.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that keeping in mind the fact that litigation against the State was increasing manifold and impacting its interests on various important aspects, the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs vide Order No.2486-LD(A) of 2011 dated August 24, 2011 notified first ever Jammu and Kashmir State Litigation Policy on the pattern of National Litigation Policy.
This step was taken by the Law Department with the prior consent of the State Cabinet. The basic objective behind framing of the policy was to ensure that good Government cases are won and bad cases are not unnecessarily pursued to protect the rights of the citizens and also to respect fundamental rights.
It was specifically mentioned in the policy that there shall be an Empowered Committee at the State level headed by Advocate General to monitor the implementation of policy and to ensure overall accountability. It was made binding on the Law Officers and the Heads of the Departments to ensure that all relevant data is sent to the Empowered Committee.
In order to broad-base monitoring aspect, a provision was kept in the State Litigation Policy for establishment of two Empowered Committees at the provincial level to be headed by Senior Additional Advocate Generals. The State level Empowered Committee was supposed to receive and deal with suggestions and complaints including from litigants and Government departments and take appropriate measures.
However, during the past seven years no step has been initiated by the Law Department to establish State level and provincial level Empowered Committees as such mechanism to monitor implementation of policy could not be put in place till date, sources said, adding what to talk of establishing Empowered Committees the Law Department has even not preferred to put implementation of policy to review at its own level.
As per the policy, the Empowered Committee at the State level has the mandate to equip the Government counsels with adequate infrastructure so that delays are avoided and Government cases are presented before the courts properly. “By not framing this Committee the Government is indirectly creating hurdles in achieving these objectives”, sources said.
“In the absence of Empowered Committees there is absolutely no focus on continuing legal education for Government lawyers with particular emphasis on new areas of specialization”, they further said while disclosing that Empowered Committees too have role in deciding fee structure of State counsels after regular intervals and making suggestions at the time of granting of extension to any Government counsel.
More importantly, cases in which costs are awarded against the Government as a condition of grant of adjournment, head of the litigant department is required to give report to the State level Empowered Committee of the reasons as to why such costs were awarded. Moreover, the names of the persons responsible for the default entailing the imposition of costs are required to be identified and information furnished to the Empowered Committee.
Likewise, the State level Empowered Committee is required to be consulted in filing pleadings/counters, filing of appeals and alternate dispute resolution and arbitration matters. “It can be easily presumed as to how much important subjects the Government is ignoring by not framing State level and two provincial level Empowered Committees”, sources said.
When contacted, a senior officer of the Law Department confirmed that Empowered Committees have not been constituted till date. He, however, refused to further comment on the subject.