Delhi HC underscores need for more public prosecutors for trial courts

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday underscored the need for recruiting more public prosecutors for the trial courts in the national capital, saying because of the “consistent shortfall” in their number the existing lot was overburdened with work in multiple courts.

“Judges are sitting in chambers and not working because the prosecutor is in another court…The prosecutor goes and does bail in one court and then comes and does evidence in another,” Acting Chief Justice Manmohan said, calling their scarcity a “serious problem”.

He differed with the city government’s stand that there was a surplus in the number of prosecutors functioning in trial courts.

“Please tell him (the Delhi government counsel) to visit the trial courts. It is an everyday story. There is no surplus. There is a consistent shortfall,” Justice Manmohan said.

The court said around 100 judicial officers, which will still be less than the sanctioned strength, were expected to start working from next year and so steps ought to be taken for induction of more prosecutors.

“This is a serious problem. We need adequate number of prosecutors,” the bench, also comprising Justice Mini Pushkarna, said.

The high court was hearing a batch of petitions, including a suo motu case (a matter initiated by court on its own), on issues related to recruitment and working of public prosecutors in the city.

The petitioners have also sought upward revision of the pay scales of prosecutors and for equipping them with facilities and infrastructure needed to do their job.

Central government counsel Anil Soni said the finance ministry has agreed to implement an order on increasing the pay scale of assistant public prosecutors subject to the outcome of an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The court asked the Delhi government to implement the finance ministry’s decision as expeditiously as possible, preferably within 4 weeks, irrespective of the outcome of the appeal in the apex court.

Delhi government counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi said all steps were being taken with respect to issues related to work conditions of prosecutors and their recruitment.

Senior advocate Rajeev K Virmani, who was appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, said training public prosecutors and providing them necessary infrastructure for efficient functioning were also important issues.

The court asked the parties to make appropriate suggestions with regard to issues raised in the petitions, and listed the matter for further hearing on December 19.

In 2009, the high court had initiated a petition on its own on the “poor” condition of prosecutors here. The court was told the reasons for the delay in disposal of cases involving undertrials included shortage of prosecutors, their support staff, and inadequate infrastructure facilities.

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