Who ultimately pays for all the court cases the government gets to fight perennially, round the year every year. No prizes for guessing it is the tax payers. It is true courts are the civilized forums on which modern disputes are settled, but when there are too many disputes any single institution or individual gets into, it is an indicator something simply is not right somewhere. And when many of the numereous cases that we get to see the government fight are actually untenable and indefensible, legally or morally even to the lay eyes, the problem is all the more acute. The pattern is familiar and it is always a story of how the government tries to sideline or else skirt around the opinion of the judiciary. A typical case history would something like: Government pushes the case of favoured employees in promotion; those at the receiving end file court case challenging the decision; court favour litigants; government resorts to delaying tactics by appealing to higher courts even reaching the Supreme Court in some cases; along the hierarchy the judiciary too vacillates in its opinion, sometimes favouring one and sometimes the other; government finally loses the case, but then the case has lost its relevance as the issue on which it was being fought have faded into insignificance. Justice delayed become justice denied. To cut the story short, it is atrocious to see this fun scarce state waste so much of its resources on totally avoidable cases. Without going into specifics, suffices it to say that most of the cases, if not all, are service related – of promotions denied, of jumping recruitment rules, of nepotism in service advancements, of salary anomalies, of back dated appointments etc. No prize for guessing again that the only ones who would be laughing all the way to the bank are those in the entire chain of legal redressal mechanism of the state, in particular the lawyers. No wonder it is often said the only litigation the legal system in Manipur knows today to deal well are revenue and service cases. Criminal cases needing extensive and nuanced interpretation of the law and constitution are almost nearly forgotten in the legal circles today.
The fact also is, the government far too frequently for comfort, faces the inevitable and humiliating fate of fighting cases with no merit or are outrightly dishonest ones, and lose after years of expensive court-hopping. There are endless numbers of examples to demonstrate this. What is extremely frustrating is, no amount of public reproach seems capable of introducing even a little remorse, and the government continues unrelenting with its game. Despite the funds knowingly flushed down the drain on unnecessary and unsuccessful litigations, there has never been any official stock taking. No appointing authorities of what in effect were governmental decisions declared as illegal by courts, have ever had to face the music. No attorney general, no law minister, no law secretary, no department heads, ever ended up penalised for un-meritorious cases that received hammerings in the courtrooms. It is as if wasting public money is a legitimate part of governance and what is not illegitimate on the other hand is to ask for accountability on these affairs.
But there is another missing accountability that is seldom taken cognizance of – this one for the lowering of the esteem of the law in the eyes of the public as a consequence of it being consistently used to defend unjust and corrupt decisions of the government. As mentioned, inordinate delays in justice delivered which almost invariably result in any court entangle, give more cause for this public disenchantment. The question now is, why must this be allowed to continue? Why cannot the government ever think of making an enquiry into this side of its legal management and determine what is wasteful and what necessary? Consequently, what cannot it also evolve some guidelines for determining an accountability scale on this score so that department heads will be a little more wary about entering into, or else inviting unnecessary litigations. Those who willfully and through their unscrupulous decisions invite these cases, and cause wastage of public money, must be made to feel guilty and pay for their action befittingly. As of now, the officialdom walk with the air that they are the untouchables of even the law, privileged to waste public money as and how they so will.