July,21,2015: Calling its affairs a “scam,” the Union Law Ministry has pulled up the Central Agency Section (CAS), which conducts the litigation work in the Supreme Court on behalf of all the ministries and departments of the Central government. Currently presided over by an additional secretary-level officer, it is the CAS that allocates legal work, marks files and briefs to all the law officers to plead for the government in the apex court and therefore, controls crucial legal cases. The CAS is located inside the Supreme Court complex and the record room is situated in the basement of a separate building.
Nudged by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Law Ministry has recently sent a 10-page note to the Section, enumerating various flaws and deliberate omissions which are adversely affecting the government’s cases in the top court. After some complaints were forwarded by the PMO to his Ministry, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had visited the CAS and the record room last week. He met with the administrative in-charge of the CAS and underscored the points made in the note sent by his Ministry a few days ago. “The maintenance of the files in the CAS appears to be a scam. If a file gets returned to the CAS on account of postponement of the hearing, the same file will never come back to the law officers/panel advocates on the subsequent date.
The staff of the CAS will create a facade of non-availability of those files…” the note had stated. It said the files are “dumped in certain black rooms where artificial crisis of no light is created.” After hurriedly photocopying these files, “usually in the late night for ulterior purposes,” they are made available to the law officers just before the case has to come up for hearing, as per the Ministry. Reminding the advocates-on-record (AORs) and panel advocates in the CAS of their duty to be ready with the files of the cases which are to be listed in the running week, the Ministry regretted that there was no desire by the section to maintain the files in a proper and orderly manner. “The files are dumped without any proper indexing, in dark rooms where it always appears that the intention is that these files cannot be retrieved,” it added.
It noted that the CAS sends the files to the law officers at the eleventh hour and in most cases they are incomplete, leading to repercussions on the government’s litigation in the apex court. The Ministry also stated that the government AORs and panel advocates are usually not present in the court when the hearings take place.
Further, the Ministry has also raised strong objections to “arbitrary” marking of cases to panel advocates by the concerned officers at the CAS, and urged the officials to rectify the situation. Former Additional Solicitor General Bishwajit Bhattacharyya, who had retired at the end of his three-year term in November 2012, had published a damning account of his experience in office and said the CAS should be dismantled if the government wants to stop losing.
The Law Ministry has recently sent a 10-page note to the Section, enumerating various flaws and deliberate omissions which are adversely affecting the government’s cases in the top court.