Launching the National Litigation Policy to make government an “efficient and a responsible” litigant, Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily on Wednesday said monitoring and review mechanism proposed under it would prevent “delay or neglect” of important cases such as the Bhopal gas tragedy.
Mr. Moily said the policy recognised the fact that the government and its various agencies were the predominant litigants in courts and tribunals in the country.
“Its (the policy’s) aim is to transform government into an efficient and a responsible litigant,” he told a press conference here.
Noting that the policy took into account the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of citizens and to respect fundamental rights, the Law Minister said those in-charge of the conduct of official litigation should never forget this basic principle.
Under the policy, Mr. Moily said the government would categorise and group court cases so that those contesting on behalf of the government could prioritise them.
“If this is in place, ultimately, constant review, prioritising and categorisation will track everything. Maybe cases like the Bhopal one will not be repeated in this country. That is the target of this (policy),” he said.
The Minister also noted that “a sensitised and sensitive” government would represent all these cases so that there was “no delay or neglect” at any stage (in cases like the Bhopal catastrophe).
Mr. Moily said these systems will be in place so that the delay witnessed in the Bhopal case did not become a norm as “justice delayed is justice buried.”
Asked about the curative petition that the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal case was considering, Attorney General G. E. Vahanvati, who was present, said the Law Minister had only made “a suggestion” before the GOM and it was not “a considered opinion“.
Mr. Vahanvati said the GoM’s report had to first go to the Cabinet, which had to approve the suggestion.
He claimed the 1996 Supreme Court order in the Bhopal gas leak case was “wrong as a matter of law.”
Based on the available evidence, the Supreme Court had in 1996 reduced the charge against the accused in the Bhopal case from culpable homicide not amounting to murder to causing death by negligence.
“I am not criticising the judgment....I am entitled to tell you that it is wrong. I say it as a matter of law. I believe there are contradictions in the judgment and there are lots of material that have come up post that judgment,” he said.