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Just one year of the Pandemic, and the impact of COVID-19 on the Indian Judiciary was very apparent, and now, almost two years later from the initial ‘hit of the pandemic’, the judiciary is finding itself entangled in a very difficult position. As per a report by the NJDG, the pendency of cases which stood at a figure of 3.8 Corers prior to Lockdown (March 2020), has as of April 2021 shot-up by 4.4 Crores in terms of just fresh cases before the judiciary, without including the appeals & revisions or matters pending before tribunals. Thus, in terms of fresh matters only, the pandemic has added a whopping 1 Crore of cases, even despite the fact that for most of the lockdown, CIRP stood suspended and the overall number of sanctioned judges increased in strength along with the hit-and-miss convivence of virtual hearings. Thus, it isn’t surprising to see the CJI pleading for Mediation & Alternative Dispute Resolution as the norm and an overall Supreme Court on its toes with the Tribunals Reforms Act. Uncannily within this huge backlog of cases, it is the Government of India who is the biggest litigator of the majority of cases, as much as 46% of the total cases. Thus, lately, emphasis has been laid on working out a National Litigation Policy to break this vicious cycle of litigation of a compulsive government.


“I may be a fool but the Courts will hear me” is a widely known expression that conveys that no matter how frivolous the litigation may be, the Courts will still devote their undivided attention to hear it unbiased. While this may be a vital claim for an aggrieved individual, but it doesn’t sit-well when the Government continues contesting litigation just because a decision is not to its liking, as it robs the sheen of a democratic system that prides in not just speedy justice but also avoiding embroilment of its people in litigation frivolously, not to mention the expenditure that has to be borne by the public exchequer.

Keeping this in mind, a National Litigation Policy (NLP) was envisaged first in 2010 as an attempt to bring down the average pendency of 15 years to 3 years by rehabilitating the Government’s antecedents of pursuing frivolous litigation. The NLP provided a framework that broadly focused on four main areas to address the pendency of litigation, namely, the Appeals & Pleadings themselves, the Code of Ethics, the predominant practice of Adjournments & prolonging litigation and exploration of ADR.

The NLP foremost strictly required the government to refrain from contesting litigation at the appellate level as a routine unless there is a patent error or a question of law involved. Appeals should especially be avoided for matters pertaining to revenue or service if the stakes are not high or too adverse. But it failed to provide the yardstick for the expression ‘high-stakes’ & ‘question of law’ and left it up to the whims of the government, who had already tasted the blood. Its other requirement of pleadings to be clear and precise was also far too vague to hold any meaning whatsoever. Furthermore, the NLP imposed certain etiquettes to be kept by Government Counsels and established Committees & Nodal Officers in each government department to exercise a check on its counsels & implement the policy. But while it provided that the possibility of disciplinary actions against those in its violations, no powers or procedure was established to take action. The NLP also frowned up-on the practice of routine adjournments and engaging in extensive by contesting matters beyond the statutory limitation but its measures to abstain from the same were suggestive & persuasive at best. Lastly, the NLP also nudged the Government to adopt Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms to cut-back on litigation but unfortunately, this seemingly good solution was largely ignored and is yet to be implemented extensively.

However, the NLP remained only as a ‘paper-opportunity’ with laudatory objectives of curbing litigation without any meaningful results. Its failure was owed to its vague standards that did not enshrine any actual accountability to keep the government departments on its toes and its overshadowing ambition over implementation. Even the Courts have, over-the course of time, lamented over the failed deliverance of the NLP at several instances (Union of India v. Pirthwi Singh (2018) 16 SCC 363.


The sheer vacuum of any change by the NLP of 2010 over the Government’s praxis of pursuing litigation has in fact uncannily culminated into yet another litigation in the form of a PIL before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court regarding the implementation of the NLP (CVN Bhaskar Rao, CPIO, Union of India & Ors. v. Central Information Commission 2020 W.P. (C) 10526/2020) wherein the Centre has expressed that a revised National Litigation Policy is in the pipeline.

Given the precarious situation created by the pandemic and an overtly angry Judiciary over the Tribunal Reforms Act, there is a lot riding on the New National Litigation Policy (NNLP) to bring forth. The New Policy should foremost avoid its previous pitfall of a ‘passive approach’ with rhetoric & meaningless phraseology in favor of some overt & substantive measures to meet its ends. It should consider establishing a ‘Litigation Ombudsman’ and a ‘Grievance Redressal System’ as previously suggested by the Law Commission of India with the necessary powers to not only inquire into the ongoing litigations but to also withdraw the same and take disciplinary actions against those violating the New Policy. An individual complaint mechanism should also be created so that those being unnecessarily harassed with litigation can reveal the misbehaving government officials and fasten accountability. It should double-down on adopting ADR mechanisms in government departments & undertakings. Most importantly, it should provide a Realizable & Tangible Assessment Mechanism with detailed benchmarks for pursuing litigation.

However, it is pertinent to note that all of these measures already did exist in different shades within the 2010 National Litigation Policy, and yet they were unable to fulfil their object and because of this, apprehension and worry still looms over whether the new policy would be able to make a dent or will it just be yet another ad-lib policy.

While the Government does share the blame in initiating frivolous litigation, what has gone unnoticed is that the majority of the pendency comprises of cases filed against it. Thus, the major problem with the NLP was not its failure in roping responsibility on the government but rather of resolving disputes with repletion. It is for this very reason it becomes all the more important for the Courts & Tribunals to also play their part and shake things-up by borrowing a well-known doctrine from the Supreme Court of United States, the Doctrine of Statutory Stare-Decisis. If the Government continues being reluctant for litigation, then it should necessarily be the Courts & Tribunals who should take the initiative of probing their perception that frivolous litigation would be entertained; and they can do so by reading the aforesaid Doctrine.

The Doctrine of Statutory Stare-Decisis simpliciter means that the Court is to exercise its powers of interpreting a legislation ambiguity only once, its interpretation would consequently gain a special status of a binding precedent, and thereafter it will not be amenable to revisit interpretation unless its position is subsequently either altered by the legislative by enactment or its application would be practically impossible. This is based on the principle that a well-established decision ought not to be interfered with, and any change should come from the legislative lest the use of the judicial over the legislative process for resolution. While the said doctrine cannot be imbibed to the letter, certain regard ought to be accorded to it. Cases filed against the Government once decided as per the established precedent, subsequent Courts should only examine whether the facts even warrant the precedent or not, and wherever it does, it should outright refuse to exercise its discretion of hearing the matter. This is because, if the Government feels aggrieved by the interpretation of the Court, then a change in the interpretation must be brought forth by it, and till it’s not, the acquiescence of the Government to the interpretation must be deemed.

One of the unsaid issues with the old policy was that even though government officers were conferred the permission to take decisions as per the established decisions, the individual officers were still afraid to do so, fearing repercussions like accusation of corruption, bribery or the wrath of an unhappy higher official. By extending the exercise of Doctrine of Statutory Stare-Decisis as a norm to Government Departments, individual officers will be able to decided disputes faster without much intervention of the Courts or fear of repercussions. It would also direct the Government into alternative mechanisms if they see that the Courts won’t budge to their whims so easily.


The New NLP should avoid being pre-conceived on baseless premises & vague notions and must undertake to set-out a functionary vested with clearly defined powers, an assessment mechanism of the policy, with the proper procedure for placing accountability and taking actions. A reimagining of the Policy with the Doctrine would lead to a two-fold increase in its efficacy, and more importantly, it would make the Government keener on exploring out of court settlements & pursuing alternative remedies along with making it more responsive to the utilization of legislative remedies if it is aggrieved by the Court’s decision.

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Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals



The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability



The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border



India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns



Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital



India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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