Governments should appoint lawyers for their skills in court and not proximity, the Law Commission has told the law ministry. It also said there should be a ceiling on their numbers.
The commission has noted that political parties in power often play favourites, choosing less competent lawyers aligned with them and in the process, governments lose both money and cases.
A top ranking official in LCI told HT that it recently sent a report to the law ministry, recommending changes in the National Litigation Policy and asking it to ensure that governments hire a “stipulated number of advocates based on fixed criteria”.
The policy aims at reducing government litigation and make it more effective due to significant time and money lost on it. There are no statistics available but ministry estimates say that governments are party to nearly 46% of all cases in different courts and tribunals. “It is not just the cost to the exchequer but competent people do not get selected and litigation suffers,” the official said.
He pointed out that the commission came across instances in which the number of law officers in a state increased four-fold with a change in government without any increase in the number of courts or cases. The government, PSUs, boards and corporations employ counsel arbitrarily at heavy costs to the exchequer.
In one instance, an audit report by the comptroller and auditor general noted for the state of Haryana, “Out of 179 law officers on the roll on an average, 140 had not been allotted any work.” Crores were paid to these officers without work.
The matter, pertaining to Punjab and Haryana, went to the Supreme Court after which it ruled in March that transparency be introduced in selection of law officers by all states.
“We have taken note of the Supreme court’s directions in our recommendations,” a top LCI source said.