Reprimanded by HC, Govt comes out with guidelines for monitoring of litigations

Counsels cautioned against seeking unnecessary adjournments
*Adverse remarks in APRs in case of non-compliance

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Nov 1: After being reprimanded by the High Court a number of times, the Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has come out with detailed guidelines for proper monitoring of litigations and to avoid precarious situation which the departments generally face in the courts due to lack of coordination at various levels. Moreover, it has been made explicitly clear that non-compliance will lead to adverse remarks in the Annual Performance Reports (APRs).
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that the High Court has passed various directions for from time to time for streamlining the litigation in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs had also issued circular instructions in view of the serious stand taken by the court(s) in respect of delay in filing of replies/counter affidavits/statement of facts etc.
In order to streamline the litigation and with a view to revamp and improve the prevalent mechanism for legal defence of the cases in which Government of Jammu and Kashmir is a party and for reducing the pendency of cases, the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs pursuant to the recommendations of the committee constituted by the General Administration also issued a circular in the month of August this year.
Through this circular it was impressed upon all the Law Officers posted in different departments, directorates, organizations and corporations to adopt and adhere to the measures/Standard Operating Procedures religiously. Despite issuance of instructions, the court(s) have been passing strictures/adverse remarks against the Government.
Even the Division Bench of the High Court while dealing with a LPA on September 21, 2020 had observed, “there is lack of coordination between different departments regarding filing of appeals etc. There is no system in place in various departments as to how to deal with the litigation”, adding “apparently no one is responsible or accountable for action/inaction….there is no set procedure regarding opinion of the counsel to be attached with the copy of order passed by the court when the same is forwarded to the concerned department”.
Now, after being reprimanded by the High Court, the Government has come out with detailed guidelines for implementation by all those who are dealing with the litigation of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir at different levels in letter and spirit.
On the receipt of copy of writ petitions and other connected papers, Director Litigation of both the divisions will immediately (preferably within a period of five days) forward and deliver the same against proper receipt to all the official respondents. Moreover, they shall engage Law Officer of the main contesting department in the writ petition as per allocation made by the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs with intimation to the concerned department, read the guidelines.
Similarly, all concerned Law Officers on receipt of the copy of the writ petition will simultaneously prepare para-wise reply which will be forwarded to the Government counsels in a time bound manner so as to enable them to prepare reply/objections etc in accordance with the rules.
“It shall be the responsibility of the Law Officer posted in the department to give complete brief to the Government counsels for preparation of objections/reply and the whole exercise shall be done in a time bound manner and should not take more than 30 days unless there is court direction for filing of response before said period”, the guidelines said, adding “the Government counsels shall invariably prepare pleadings/ reply/ objections/ LPAs in each and every case on their own so as to make them understand what is to be argued when case will come up for hearing as lack of focus on this vital aspect is resulting in precarious situation for the counsels as well as the Government”.
Moreover, all the Government counsels have been asked to cause their appearance before the courts/Tribunal in each and on every date of hearing and cautioned against resorting to unnecessary adjournments. “Failure on their part to make proper and effective representation on behalf of the Government will entail action against them and any laxity in this behalf shall not be condoned”, the guidelines said.
As far as contempt cases are concerned, the counsels/ Director Litigation on request from the departments shall obtain copies of contempt petitions from the court and forward the same to the concerned department for immediate filing of statement of facts/compliance reports. Even 15 days timeframe has been fixed for preparation of statement of facts/compliance reports and filing of the same from the date of receipt of notice or as may be directed by the court.
“The Law Officers and Government counsels shall avoid seeking time for filing of counter affidavit/rejoinder and further time can only be sought in exceptional circumstances”, the guidelines said, adding “there should be no delay in filing of LPAs/SLPs. However, in exceptional cases where there is delay, the application for condonation of delay should not be drafted casually and in routine manner without proper application of mind”.
Asking all the persons who are dealing with litigation at different levels to discharge their duties with utmost sincerity and commitment, the guidelines said, “there shall be accountability at every level and if any officer is found negligent in handling court matters the Law Department after full scrutiny fix responsibility when good cases are lost or adverse orders are passed in any matter against the Government”.
“The department will consider taking appropriate action against them in accordance with the rules including remarks of his conduct in APRs”, the guidelines further said.