Law ministry seeks Cabinet nod for legal cells in all departments
The law ministry has submitted a proposal to the cabinet seeking the creation of integrated legal divisions (ILDs) in all government ministries and departments that will give day-to-day legal advice, legal affairs, secretary Suresh Chandra said on Thursday.
“I have written to the cabinet secretary yesterday. The draft proposal is for creating ILDs on the lines of the IFDs (Integrated finance divisions) in all ministries,” Chandra said, addressing a coordination committee meeting of over 60 nodal officers — each representing a different department or ministry — of the legal information management and briefing system (LIMBS). LIMBS is an online database of government related litigation with details of 2.91 lakh cases. It was launched in 2016 and aims to eventually bring information on all government-related cases to the database and enable their tracking. “The ILDs will have legal advisers and drafting counsels,” Chandra added.
These divisions will also act as outposts of the law ministry’s legal affairs department which offers advice to ministries and their creation will cut red tape, another official privy to the proposal said. Officials posted in these divisions will be experts from the legal affairs department, he added. The ministry also helps other departments draft laws and regulations.
Law ministry officials are already posted in the defence and the railway ministries.
Officials of the ILDs will ensure that the ministries in which they are posted, approach courts only when litigation is the last resort. The cases in which the government has poor chances of winning will not be pursued. A majority of the cases in which government is a party, relate to service matters and indirect taxes. Different ministries present at the meeting raised the issue of delays in getting information about the progress of their own cases from the legal counsels.
Chandra said LIMBS would address that concern by making the progress of cases at different stages completely transparent.
The ministry also hopes to analyse the data available through the system to find out what causes delays and how it can be curtailed. The average lifespan of a civil litigation in India is 1,445 days, which the ministry wants to bring down by 100 days in the next three months, he added. “LIMBS will allow for single window clearance of cases and their digital monitoring. We are also preparing a list of all important cases to which the government is party,” the law secretary said.