Government Litigation

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What is government litigation?

Government litigation refers to litigation that is brought by the government (including the Central, State and local governments, at any level) or where the government is a party. The government has been recognised as the biggest litigant in the country by many – from the judiciary[1] to experts[2][3] to the Prime Minister[4] – comprising a bulk of the cases pending before courts. While some have put the percentage of government litigation to total cases at 46%[3][5], it has been noted that no official data is publicly available to conduct accurate analyses.[6] However, it has been stated that as of 23 September 2020, the Government has over 5.8 lakh cases pending in different courts across the country.[5] As per the Legal Information Management and Briefing System dashboard, there are currently over 6.5 lakh pending cases involving the government.

The Dashboard as seen on the LIMBS website, displaying the total number of cases and the number of pending cases.

As the Indian judicial system suffers from an enormous backlog of cases,[7][8] examinations of the role of government litigation in this have increased. A government report suggests that as of March 2017, there are cases valued at 7.58 lakh crore rupees stuck in litigation in just direct and indirect tax claims.[9] Furthermore, 66% of those cases contributed to only 1.8% of this total value, suggesting that these were avoidable cases had it not been for the persistent appeals from the Tax Department.[9] Questions have been raised about the litigation of the government along a number of issues –

  • How several cases are avoidable and unnecessary[10]
  • The burgeoning number of cases[11]
  • The accountability taken for the instigation of legal cases by government officers[12][13]
  • Looking at alternate avenues as a first resort for the government to address disputes before taking it to court[14][15]

Official definitions of government litigation

The expression ‘litigation’ refers to a legal action initiated in a court of law, with the intention of enforcing a right or seeking a remedy.[16] The term includes all the legal proceedings within such a legal action.

The dynamic in government litigation

Another reason why government litigation has been paid attention to is the dynamic of power between the government and the private individual/entity who are party to the litigation. When a suit is filed/appealed, an “individual person or entity is pitted against a massive government machinery with its limitless resources”.[17] While this is true of all law enforcement cases such as criminal matters and certain civil matters (such as tax claims), the concern is that this power might be abused to exhaust the individual.[18] This can be done through appealing the matter instead of accepting given verdicts, avoiding settlement, abusing the special powers granted under legislation[19] to the government, filing suits when similar matters have already been decided before.[20]

Thus, it has been said that the aim with reforming government litigation is not just a matter of reducing the number of cases, but of transforming the government into a responsible litigant,[21][22] which the Supreme Court has also echoed,[23] and the National Litigation Policy 2010 stated as its aim.[24]

Addressing government litigation

With increasing pendencies before the judiciary, government litigation has been analysed on multiple occasions as a way of reducing such pendency. The 54th (1973), 100th (1984) and 126th (1988) Reports of the Law Commission of India (LCI) have examined the issue. While the 54th Report only made a few suggestions to reduce avoidable litigation on civil matters,[25] the 100th and 126th Reports were dedicated to the subject. These led to the creation of a High-Powered Committee in 1991 offering in-house conciliation as a first resort before litigation but was decommissioned in 2011 for failing its objectives and delaying the filing of cases. The creation of a Permanent Machinery of Arbitrators has also been attempted in 2004 to settle disputes between public-sector companies and government departments, but which has now been replaced with the Administrative Mechanism for Resolution of CPSEs Disputes (AMRCD).[5]

To keep track of ongoing government litigation, a number of measures have been recommended.

National Litigation Policy

A government litigation policy to reduce the pendencies burdening courts has been suggested at various points.[26][27][28] A National Litigation Policy arose in 2010, after a resolution taken by the Central government at the ‘National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary, towards Reducing Pendency and Delays’.[29] The 13th Finance Commission also made it a condition for States to formulate and implement a State Litigation Policy in order to receive grants from the Centre.[30] However, the 2010 National Litigation Policy is currently being revised.[30]

Litigation Ombudsman

It has also been proposed that official bodies can be set to reduce government litigation. The 100th LCI Report proposed the creation of a Litigation Ombudsman,[31] with such an authority set up for each State and at the Central government level. Any person looking to file writ proceedings against the government could first make their grievances and the desired relief known to the Litigation Ombudsman through a letter. The Ombudsman could examine the issue and recommend to both the person and the concerned government body how it should be addressed. To ensure timely and accessible assistance, it was suggested that no formal application should be required to bring a matter before the Ombudsman, and that the Ombudsman should conclude their examination and recommendations within 2 months from the receipt of the letter.[32] It was further recommended that the Litigation Ombudsman need not be created in states where a Lokayukta had been established, but instead the ambit of the Lokayukta be expanded to include the work of the proposed Litigation Ombudsman as it could thus look into all kinds of maladministration.[33] There has been no movement on incorporating this recommendation, and no such Litigation Ombudsman body has been set up at the national or state level. Furthermore, neither the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 nor state legislations (such as the Maharashtra Lokayukta Act, 2022) include overseeing government litigation in the Lokayukta’s jurisdiction.

Federal Legal Cell

The creation of a Federal Legal Cell had also been proposed in the 126th Report with a dual purpose: to reduce frequent litigation by setting down rules and policy decisions to prevent it; and to improve on litigation policy by facilitating communication between government and citizens, between different governments, between government bodies, and between the Executive and Judiciary.[34] While no such Federal Legal Cell had been created, it is hoped that the data provided by the Legal Information Management and Briefing System (LIMBS) can be analysed to further develop litigation policy.[35]

Legislative Oversight

A Parliamentary Committee on Litigation has been suggested as a way of legislative oversight over government litigation. Like other public accounts committees, it could look into the litigation the government was involved in, know the expenses incurred, and question whether any government litigation was frivolous or avoidable.[36] No such standing committee has been constituted, although the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas did examine the subject of ‘Litigation involving Oil PSUs’ for the year 2022-23.[37]

Types of government litigation

While there is no data publicly available on the subject matter of the various cases the government is involved in,[6] in the absence of such information government litigation can still be understood in broadly two ways:

  • Cases between private citizens/organisations and the government; and
  • Cases between two government bodies.

Litigation of disputes between 2 or more government bodies (whether government departments, agencies, or public-sector companies) has been noted as being an unnecessary drain on public expenses, drawn out by appeals.[38][39]

Litigation policy

The National Court Management Systems (NCMS) Committee, set up on the directions of the Chief Justice of India in consultation with the Law Minister,[40] in its Baseline Report suggests strategies to address government litigation:

It notes that the current system has the government pleader (i.e., the advocate representing the government in court) interacting with multiple different officials regarding cases government bodies are party to. There are several avoidable delays around this, that can be rectified with:

  • Auto-generated notices and reminders to file replies sent directly to the concerned government office.
  • A nodal officer to be nominated for liaising between government departments and the government pleader to ensure the case is dealt with as smoothly and expeditiously as possible, including the filing of replies and documents.
  • Once there is receipt of the notice/intimation from the court, the nodal officer will make reference to the committee established under the National Litigation Policy to examine the worthiness of the case in proceedings. The stand of the government in court proceedings will be determined in this stage.
  • The Baseline Report also expects a fully computerised system around which the timeline for government litigation is set and followed. It states that such a system “...should be so designed that on filing of the affidavit/documents before the approximate expiry date, the date of hearing should be assigned immediately thereafter” and that “the time limit to be given to the nodal/nominated officer for filing reply affidavit/documents must be the approximate returnable date of the proceedings”. Furthermore, this system “...must be able to generate (a) calendar and prioritise the list of cases to be attended to”.
  • A stricter avoidance of adjournments by the government in all kinds of cases, going as far as to recommend that if documents are not filed within an extended time, the Court should proceed by directing the government department to produce original records and proceed with the hearing on their basis.
  • That the organisational structure of government pleader’s offices (in terms of advocates and staff) should correspond to the files pending in that office.

While the National Litigation Policy 2010 is currently being revised,[30] there are a number of State Litigation Policies in effect by the state governments of Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Punjab, and Jharkhand; with Uttar Pradesh intending to bring a new litigation policy.[41]

Appearance in official databases


Another method of reducing government litigation has been the Legal Information Management and Briefing System (LIMBS), with the aim of creating a single unified platform for the litigation and arbitration of all Ministries and Departments of the Central government. LIMBS is a web-based application available to the stakeholders of government litigation that provides a database on its cases, updated on a real-time basis.[35] As of now, LIMBS has been implemented in 55 Ministries of the Government of India. It aims to bring uniformity in the administrative norms of government litigation; create audit trails and timeliness in government cases – with the database itself containing fields for the storage, categorisation and search of legal cases and documents.[42] It provides a number of features to its users:[35][42]

  • Monitoring cases (both court and arbitration proceedings) and AMRCD cases throughout their lifecycle, i.e., from their institution to their disposal
  • Providing information on the drafting of pleadings, internal notes and advice by the legal department, proceedings in court, the final court judgement, etc
  • SMS alerts of upcoming cases to the relevant persons, i.e., advocates, users, and concerned officers
  • A Unique Digital Locker and e-document vault
  • Displaying dashboards, data sheets and graphs
  • Generating reports on litigation in multiple formats, including overall analytics and statistical/summary reports
  • Search functions to go through cases by multiple fields – Ministry/Department, court details, case category, financial implication, case status, party name(s), advocate, system date, case date, next hearing/judgement date, and history
  • Transferring cases between a Ministry/Department to another
  • A Special Leave Petition/Advice Module to ensure the timely processing for Special Leave Petitions/Appeals
  • Algorithmically clubbing together similar cases
  • Helping researchers and policymakers discern legislative and policy ambiguities by identifying high litigation volume
  • Processing of Law Officers, empanelled counsels and advocates’ fee bills

It is also hoped that the data gathered on the platform could be further analysed for different purposes such as text mining for the categorisation of documents, and to pick up on data trends – the time taken by the court to dispose of the case, the advocate’s win percentage, etc. Eventually, LIMBS is intended to be integrated with the Supreme Court database through API, as well as with tribunal databases.

State LMS

Most Indian states have their own legal case management systems or litigation management systems (LMS). These include:

Andhra Pradesh

The Andhra Pradesh government has its own Online Legal Case Monitoring System (OLCMS) to monitor its cases, released in February 2022. It indexes cases to ensure government pleaders can monitor and respond to new and pending cases in time, with each department having its own nodal officer to monitor their litigation.[43] The OLCMS provides a number of functions for government departments across the secretariat, directorate and district levels which include:

  • Tracking a case from its filing to its disposal
  • Ensuring compliance by government officers
  • Digitising the manual processes of counter affidavit drafting and filing by the government

Odisha has its own Litigation Management System (LMS) to track all cases involving the Government of Odisha in the Supreme Court, Orissa High Court and the Administrative Tribunals in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. It further aims to coordinate effective communication between various government offices with the Advocate General of Odisha.


Haryana’s Litigation Management System is an integrated workflow-based system, with the system being integrated with the High Court of Punjab and Haryana for fetching data on the cases. The office of the Advocate General of Haryana acts as a nodal office for the state.[44]

Uttar Pradesh
The number of cases broken down by department on the CCIS dashboard.

Uttar Pradesh analyses the cases the state government is involved in through a Court Cases Information System (CCIS) under the office of the Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh. The page also provides data on a dashboard showing the number of pending and disposed cases, broken down by the department they involve.  

Other states with their own litigation management systems
  • The Litigation Information Tracking and Evaluation System of the Government of Rajasthan.
  • The Case Court Monitoring Solution (CCMS) for Law Offices for Government Pleaders in Kerala. All District Government Pleaders and Additional Government Pleaders update the status of cases in a computerised tracking system.
  • The Litigation Monitoring System of the Government of Himachal Pradesh, which also provides both a dashboard to view overall statistics as well as a categorised breakdown of the number of pending cases involving government departments.
  • The Integrated Litigation Management System of the Department of School Education and Literacy of the Government of Jharkhand
  • The Litigation Management System of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir
  • The Court Case Monitoring System of the Government of Tamil Nadu
  • The number of cases as seen on the IILMS dashboard.
    The Integrated Institutional Litigants Management System of the Government of Gujarat, to cater to the needs of government and semi-government offices, as well as those of their Government Pleaders and District Government Pleaders. It monitors cases by their parent offices, offers document exchanges, creates dynamic reports, sends reminders for case, and so on.
  • While it is unclear whether Maharashtra has an LMS, the Government of Maharashtra has appointed nodal officers and provided training for litigation management to its lawyers.[45]
  • The Court Cases Monitoring System of the Government of Punjab. In addition the Government of Punjab has its own litigation policy[46] and has on occasion trained its bureaucrats to reduce the incidence of litigation.[47]
  • While it is unclear whether the Government of Chattisgarh has its own system for monitoring litigation, there is mention of an OIC and the tracking of government cases in departments.

Research that engages with government litigation

International Experiences

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has its own litigation policy contained in the Practice Statement Law Administration 2009/9 Conduct of Tax Office Litigation. It strives to ensure that in legal disputes, the ATO always acts to:

  • Minimise litigation and its associated costs
  • To consider other dispute resolution methods in the most timely and cost effective fashion,[48] resorting to legal proceedings only when it is deemed the most suitable method of resolving that particular dispute.[49]
  • To act as a ‘model litigant’, which means that government officers and persons must act with propriety and with the highest professional standards in handling claims. The ATO considered this to mean that its obligation in conducting litigation goes beyond those imposed on private litigants. This includes not taking advantage of claimants who lack the resources to litigate a legitimate claim,[50] and not pursuing cases when the ATO’s position is not in accordance with its own published view of the law.[51]

Australian government agencies are required to act as model litigants under its Legal Services Directions 2017, which over several clauses in Appendix B describe its obligation in all cases involving government departments, agencies, and government ministers/officers, whether before courts, tribunals, inquiries, or even in arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution processes.[52] The clauses include avoiding technical defences,[53] not pursuing appeals unless it believes such an appeal will be successful,[54] not contesting liability or requiring the other party to prove a matter which the agency knows to be true,[55] and apologising where the agency is aware that it or its lawyers have acted wrongfully or improperly.[56]

Data challenges

  • There is an absence of data collection on the subject, and whatever is collected is not available to the public.[6]
  • It has been noted that the limited data that is known (such as the oft-repeated broad statistic that the government constitutes 46% of all legal cases in India) is not useful for analysis or verification[17][22] owing to several issues:
    • There is no granular data on the various kinds of cases the government is involved in, making categorisation difficult.
    • Since a number of different bodies are considered to be the government under Article 12 of the Constitution – from Public Sector Undertakings to local panchayats and district bodies, to the highest offices of the Government of India – there needs to be categorisation within the numbers of government litigation to understand the levels of government cases are arising from.
    • In legal cases between private citizens and government, the ratio of which are government-initiated, and which are brought against the government is not known.

Way ahead

It has been suggested by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy[17] that further study needs to be done on government litigation in respect of writ petitions invoked against it, stating that according to data from 6 High Courts writ petitions make up 50-60% of the judicial backlog. As legislative and regulatory activity increases, citizens will depend on redressal against executive actions. Thus, analysing writ petitions will have a twofold purpose, as it serves as (i) “a means to identify legislative lacunae and executive excesses” and (ii) a means to study the patterns of government litigation. Vidhi further articulates questions to base this analysis on:

  • What are the various levels of governance (Centre, State, government departments, government agencies) against which writ jurisdiction of the High Court is invoked?
  • What are the kinds of cases filed against the ‘government’ at various levels? For example, is there a difference between challenges against the constitutionality of legislation and against executive actions?
  • What solutions can be proposed to reduce the incidence of government litigation?
  • How can the existing burden of government litigation be efficiently handled?
  1. Press Trust of India. (2023, March 18). Govt should be responsible, not compulsive litigant: SC judge Maheshwari. Business Standard.
  2. See para 8.15, page 42, of the 126th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 20 June, 2023 from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Guruswamy, M. (2023, January 7). The judicial pendency question: How to lighten the court's load. The Indian Express.
  4. Press Trust of India. (2016, October 31). Government biggest litigant, need to lessen load on judiciary: PM Modi | India News. Times of India.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 NITI Aayog Expert Committee on ODR. (2021, October). Designing the Future of Dispute Resolution: the ODR Policy Plan for India. NITI Aayog. Retrieved June 26, 2023, from
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Reddy T, P., & Jain, C. (2021, October 25). Why the Indian government needs to make information about its own legal cases more transparent.
  7. Bedi, R. (2023, June 27). Where justice delayed is truly denied: 300 years needed to clear India's backlog of judicial cases, says think tank. The Irish Times.
  8. Mohanty, S. (2022, April 30). India has court backlog of 40 million cases, chief justice says. Reuters.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ministry of Finance, Government of India. (2018). Chapter 9 - Ease of Doing Business’ Next Frontier: Timely Justice. In Economic Survey of India 2017-18 (Vol. I, pp. 131-143). Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
  10. Hazarika, A. (2023, May 8). At least 40 per cent litigation by Central and State governments frivolous: Supreme Court. Bar and Bench.
  11. LiveLaw News Network. (2017, March 19). Reduce Litigation By Governments: Law Minister To Centre, States. LiveLaw.
  12. Thapliyal, N. (2021, June 30). "Centre, Delhi Govt Must Incorporate Rules For Holding Officers Accountable For Lapse In Handling Court Cases": Delhi High Court. LiveLaw.
  13. Jain, M. (2022, March 10). Legal Information Management & Briefing System| SC Directs Centre To Place Real-Time Statistics Of SLPs Filed After 1 September 2021 Within And Beyond Limitation Period. LiveLaw.
  14. Jha, P. (2023, April 14). Central government's motto should be "Mediate, not Litigate": CJI DY Chandrachud. Bar and Bench.
  15. LiveLaw News Network. (2020, September 11). Make Advance Tax Ruling System More Comprehensive As A Tool For Settlement Of Disputes, SC Tells Centre [Read Judgment]. LiveLaw.
  16. As set down in the case of Janata Dal v. H. S. Chowdhary, (1992) 4 SCC 305. Reaffirmed in Holicow Pictures (Pvt) Ltd v. Prem Chandra Mishra, (2007) 14 SCC 281.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Kinhal, D., Gupta, S., & Chandrashekaran, S. (2018). Government Litigation: An Introduction [A report by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy]. Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. Retrieved June 30, 2023, from
  18. See para 2.1 of the 126th Report of the Law Commission of India for a detailed illustration of such scenarios.
  19. See paras 2.2, 2.3, 2.6, 2.13 of the 100th Report of the Law Commission of India for a critique of Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code. See paras 4.1, 4.2, 4.4 of the same report for a critique of article 112 of the Limitation Act.
  20. Press Trust of India. (2021, June 1). Don't compel citizens to move courts again & again, follow National Litigation Policy: HC to Centre. Business Standard.
  21. Mittal, N. (2017, March 1). In court without cause. The Statesman.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Kinhal, D. (2018, January 15). Tackling government litigation. The Hindu.
  23. See Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer’s concurrence in Dilbagh Rai Jarry v. Union of India, (1974) 3 SCC 554.
  24. Jauhar, A. (2016, November 18). Time to move towards a new litigation policy. The Hindu.
  25. See Chapter 27 – Suits by or against Government, pages 214-216, of the 54th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 20 June, 2023 from
  26. See paras 27.6, 27.9, and 27.10; pages 215-216; of the 54th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 20 June, 2023 from
  27. See para 5, Mundrika Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar, (1979) 4 SCC 701.
  28. See para 8.21, page 43, of the 126th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 20 June, 2023 from
  29. Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice. (n.d.). Status Note On National Litigation Policy. Department of Legal Affairs, MoL&J, GoI. Retrieved June 20, 2023, from
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 ANI. (2021, January 13). Drafting of revised National Litigation Policy underway: Centre informs Delhi HC. Asian News International.
  31. See Chapter 3 of the 100th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 30 June, 2023 from
  32. See para 3.4, page 7, of the 100th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 30 June, 2023 from
  33. See para 3.7, pages 8-9, of the 100th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 30 June, 2023 from
  34. See para 8.21, pages 43-44, of the 126th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 20 June, 2023 from
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 Gupta, A. (2020). Government Litigation: How Can Technology Help Legal Information Management? In Justice Frustrated: The Systemic Impact of Delays in Indian Courts (pp. 163-167). Bloomsbury.
  36. See para 8.22, page 44, of the 126th Report of the Law Commission of India. Retrieved on 20 June, 2023 from
  37. Lok Sabha Secretariat. (2022). DEPARTMENTALLY RELATED STANDING COMMITTEES - Summary of Work (Seventeenth Lok Sabha) (2021-2022). Digital Sansad. Retrieved July 13, 2023, from
  38. See para 2.25, page 17, of the 126th Report of the Law Commission of India. See also para 8.21, page 43, of the 126th Report. Retrieved on 20 June, 2023 from
  39. Press Trust of India. (2017, January 20). PM Modi laments depts working in silos, settling disputes in courts. The Indian Express.
  40. National Court Management Systems Committee & Advisory Committee. (2012, September 27). National Court Management Systems Policy & Action Plan. Supreme Court of India. Retrieved July 18, 2023, from
  41. Indo-Asian News Service. (2023, July 10). UP govt to bring new litigation policy for speedy trials of cases. Lokmat Times.
  42. 42.0 42.1 Department of Legal Affairs. (n.d.). LIMBS: Legal Information Management and Briefing System [A brochure by the Department of Legal Affairs on the LIMBS application]. LIMBS. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from
  43. Press Trust of India. (2021, August 28). Andhra Pradesh to monitor litigation in real-time. The Economic Times.
  44. Tribune News Service. (2019, January 6). CM launches litigation mgmt system. The Tribune.
  45. Rahman, N. A. (2016, February 8). Maharashtra to train government pleaders in litigation management. DNA India.
  46. See Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Punjab, India. (2023, June 13). PUNJAB CABINET OKAYS MODIFICATION TO DISPUTE RESOLUTION & LITIGATION POLICY FOR GOVT. DEPARTMENTS. Retrieved July 14, 2023, from
  47. Malik, S. (2023, May 23). To avoid litigation, Punjab officials to get tips on exercising statutory powers. The Tribune.
  48. See para 16, PS LA 2009/9
  49. See para 13, PS LA 2009/9
  50. See para 14, PS LA 2009/9
  51. See para 5, PS LA 2009/9
  52. See Note 1, Appendix B of the Legal Services Directions 2017.
  53. See clause 2(g), Appendix B of the Legal Services Directions 2017.
  54. See clause 2(h), Appendix B of the Legal Services Directions 2017.
  55. See clause 2(e), Appendix B of the Legal Services Directions 2017.
  56. See clause 2(i), Appendix B of the Legal Services Directions 2017.
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