SC reserves verdict on plea for guidelines on law officers’ appointment

New Delhi, Sep 10 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on the plea seeking to put in place a transparent and objective search and selection process for the appointment of law officers to represent government before the high courts and the apex court.

“We are looking for a transparent and objective selection process for the appointment of the government law officers to represent it before the courts,” said a bench of Justice T.S.Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph, clarifying: “We are not for enforcing any uniform method but the process of selection becomes objective.”

The court also favoured “audit” of the work done by the each of the law officers so that government is accountable for their appointment before the elected representatives in the state assemblies.

“When you audit their work, then you may come to know that 10 law officers never appeared before the court, another 20 appeared only once and 50 were just enjoying and then issue may get raised in the assembly,” the court said.

The court’s stand assumes significance it was told that the CAG in its report has pointed to serious irregularities in the working of law officers of Haryana in six months between December 2009 and January 2012.

India’s official auditor said that in January 2012, Haryana had 179 law officers and 78 percent of them were without any work and there were 87 law officers who did no work for 20 working days in the month of January but were still paid. The total amount paid to these 179 law officers in January 2012 was Rs.6,948,786.

The court was told that at present Haryana had 36 law officers working in its legal cell in Delhi which includes 26 holding the post of additional advocate general, four of deputy advocate general and six of assistant advocate general. Besides this, Haryana has 147 law officers in the advocate general’s office in Chandigarh.

Driving home its point, the court said that if the state resources could not be given to private contractors in an arbitrary manner, similarly there has to be some yardstick for the appointment of law officers as they are paid from state exchequer.

It also made it clear that it was not going to interfere with the categories of the law officers, to be identified by their nomenclature, that the state governments may have or their numbers, experience or the amount to be paid to them.

However stressing “some mechanism, methodology and objectivity in the appointment of the law officers”, the court said that the government’s law officers appearing before the court must inspire the confidence of the people.

It also made it clear that that it was in no doubt that even after putting in place a transparent and objective selection process for the appointment of law officers, some questionable appointments would still be made.

“We know even after putting in place a selection process with parameters laid out, the ultimate outcome may be the same (appointments getting coloured by considerations other than the merit) as members of the selection committee are human but there would be some genuine appointments,” said Justice Thakur.

The court said that the people without political connections but clean and reasonably meritorious too should have an avenue of being considered and appointed as otherwise it results in a “heartburn”.

“If a person does not have a political clout he should not remain excluded from consideration for appointment as law officer,” the court said, while hearing of a plea by the Punjab government challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s September 2013 order refusing to interfere with its single judge’s October 21, 2011 order that services of Brijeshwar Singh Chahal as law officer not be terminated.

The single judge, by another order of October 18, 2012, had said the matter required a detailed hearing.

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