In a move which will provide major relief to military personnel involved in litigation with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has issued strict guidelines to reduce frivolous appeals filed in Supreme Court against serving and retired personnel.
The new policy, passed last week, states that no appeals would be filed in sensitive matters or those involving public policy unless approved by the defence minister himself. Taking a strong view regarding routine filing of appeals in the Supreme Court, Parrikar, passed orders to curb this tendency by overhauling the procedure of litigating in service related matters.
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The landmark step is bound to bring down the grievances of civil and military employees, pensioners and disabled soldiers since the MoD was known to litigate till the Supreme Court in cases decided against it. On implementation, the Ministry is expected to shed the ‘compulsive litigant’ tag.
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In the fresh MoD policy, the concern of the defence minister over rising litigation in routine matters and those involving meager financial implications has been noted. The fresh procedure would now involve the processing of proposals by the defence services headquarters whether to file an appeal or not through a set channel. The approval will be sought from the concerned joint secretary who would either send the file back without approval or for the views of legal advisor (Defence) if he feels that the case is fit for appeal. If the legal advisor too feels that the case is not fit for appeal and the joint secretary agrees, then also the file would be sent for implementing the lower courts orders. In case the joint secretary still is in favour of filing an appeal, the approval of additional secretary would have to be taken before moving the Supreme Court.
The step also comes soon after the submission of the Report of the Committee of Experts constituted by Parrikar which expressed displeasure on the MoD for ‘indulging in litigation of luxury’ and which recorded that appeals were being filed as a default reaction and by indulging in ‘ego-fuelled’ litigation.
The committee, comprising Lt Gen (retd) Mukesh Sabharwal, Lt Gen (retd) Richard Khare, lawyer Maj Navdeep Singh, Kargil veteran Maj DP Singh and former Judge Advocate General Maj Gen (retd) T Parshad, had reminded the MoD that the government was not an ordinary litigant trying to win against its own citizens by hook or crook and it was its duty to settle honest claims and policies already adjudicated by High Courts and Supreme Court. The Committee had further recommended that in case of both civil and military employees, decisions of tribunals in their favour should normally be accepted and a challenge should only lie in exceptional cases at best till the high court and only in the rarest of rare cases to the Supreme Court.