Government Must Cease To Be A Compulsive Litigant – Supreme Court Says Government Fully Responsible For Burdening The Court

Recently, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Sanjay K Kaul, expressed displeasure at multiple petitions filed in appeal against job-related benefits to serving or retired government employees. The Union of India was in appeal before the Supreme Court in two such cases where it was aggrieved by the orders by the high courts. In both these matters, the central administrative tribunal (CAT) had ruled in favour of the employees.

“Government is fully responsible for burdening this court. It takes everything to this court irrespective of the merits of the matter. And we have to then examine everything whether or not it has any merit,” said the bench. The government is “fully responsible” for burdening this court, a bench of Supreme Court judges said on Friday while hearing an intervention sought in
connection with cases on seniority and promotion.

The Government of India formulated a National Litigation Policy in 2010 to reduce the cases pending in various Courts in India under the National Legal Mission to reduce the number of Court Cases. The policy says that :-

Government must cease to be a compulsive litigant. The philosophy that matters should be left to the courts for ultimate decision has to be discarded. The easy approach, “Let the court decide,” must be eschewed and condemned.”

Filing of Appeals
Given that Tribunalisation is meant to remove the loads from Courts, challenge to orders of Tribunals should be an exception and not a matter of routine.” The Department of Personnel on whose advice generally the appeals are filed in High Courts and Supreme Courts against the Judgments of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on service matters itself has issued an instructions on 03.09.1998 to all the Departments for compliance of High Court / Supreme Court Judgments based on the 44 th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
The instruction of DOP&T categorically states that : “appropriate steps be taken by all the Ministries / Departments of the Government of India / Union Territories for timely redressal of the genuine grievances of the employees so that minimum of these employees take recourse to CAT / Courts. It is also mentioned in the above OM that all Department should ensure that matters relating to improvements in service rules and conditions as may become necessary due to various pronouncements of Courts wherever necessary, receive priority attention.”

Let us now go through the recommendations made by 5 th Central Pay Commission regarding extension of judicial decisions in matters of a general nature to all similarly placed employees. The 5 th CPC categorically recommended that :-

“decisions taken in one specific case either by the judiciary or the Government should be applied to all other identical cases without forcing the other employees to approach the Court of Law for an identical remedy or relief. We clarify that this decision will apply only in case where a principle or common issue of general nature applicable to a group of category of Government employees is concerned and not to matters relating to a specific grievance or anomaly of an individual employee.”

Inspite of all the above criticisms by the High Courts, Supreme Court the Government continues to violate its own litigation policy and as a routine goes on filing appeals in the High Courts and Supreme Courts against the judgments of the Central Administrative Tribunals on service matters. The National Litigation Policy stipulates that in service matters no appeal will be filed in cases where

a) the matter pertains to an individual grievance without any major repercussion
b) the matter pertains to a case of pension or retirement benefits without involving any principle and without setting any precedent or financial implications.
c) Further, proceedings will not be filed in service matters merely because the
order of the Administrative Tribunal affects a number of employees. Appeals will not be filed to espouse the cause of one section of employees against another.

The National Litigation Policy also emphasis the need of alternative dispute resolution arbitration. The Government constituted the Joint Consultative Machinery (JCM) for Central Government Employees during the year 1966 with the aim to settle all the service related disputes through joint consultations. If there is no agreement in the JCM on a particular service matter the same can be referred to Board of Arbitration and the decision / award of the Board is binding on both the parties subject to the overriding Authority of the Parliament. Government has deliberately diluted the role of JCM and it doesn’t bother to convene the meetings of the JCM both at the National Council Level chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and the Departmental Council (JCM) chaired by the Secretaries of the concerned Departments. Originally when the JCM Scheme was constituted more than 80% of the Central Government Employees were Group “D” and Group employees and they all were covered under the JCM Scheme. Over a period of time due to rationalization and merger of Pay Scales etc. more than 50% of the Central Government Employees are now in Group “B” Category and they are now kept out of the JCM Scheme. There are more than 16 Arbitration Awards given by the Board of Arbitration which the Government has not bothered to implement even after more than 2 decades. The Ministry of Defence based on the advice of Department of Personnel constituted High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of Lt. Gen. Mukesh Sabharwal (Retd.) in Order to resolve the grievances / issues of the Government servants at pre litigation stage and to reduce the volume of existing litigations pending in various Courts and Tribunals. The Committee has categorically recommended that Government should generally avoid filing appeals against CAT Judgments and at the most the appeal should be restricted to High Courts and once High Court gives a judgment in favour of the employees then the judgment should be implemented not only for the Petitioners but also to the similarly placed employees.

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