How can government lawyers or prosecutors be expected to perform efficiently if they are not paid, the Delhi High Court said today. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra directed the Centre and the AAP government to inform it about the reason why they were not paying the fees of the lawyers immediately after the bills are raised.
“It is not a happy situation” that bills of the prosecutors, including criminal prosecutors of trial courts, are pending for over a year and the government counsel of the high court has also not been paid, the bench said. “How can we expect lawyers to perform efficiently when they are neither given payment, nor are they equipped with basic infrastructure to carry out their duties,” it said.
It also sought to know from the Centre, the status of the Delhi government’s proposal pending consideration before them to enhance the pay scales of the public prosecutors appearing before the district courts and the Delhi High Court.
The bench said the action taken report should be filed by the departments within 10 days and fixed the matter for further hearing on May 15.
Meanwhile, Rahul Mehra, Delhi government senior standing counsel (criminal), told the court that as far as bills of the trial court prosecutors are concerned, he has sent it from his office and was pending scrutiny before its law department. The bench asked the Delhi government’s Law Department to take “prompt steps in making payment of all the bills”.
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The high court had taken up the issue of non-payment of salaries to government counsels while hearing a suo motu case in 2009 over the slow pace of work in trial courts.
Several lawyers, representing the Delhi government and central government agencies, have not been paid for several months. These include lawyers appearing for the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Economic Offences Wing, Central Bureau of Investigation, as well as the additional public prosecutors in the Delhi High Court.
Noting that the various problems faced by the prosecutors, including lack of basic facilities such as stationery and lack of access to the internet, was delaying work, the court had earlier pulled up the governments for not providing the necessary material.