Need-Based Assessment of State Law Officers Must Be Realistic and Transparent: Allahabad High Court

In a significant order, the Allahabad High Court at Lucknow has emphasized the necessity for a realistic and transparent need-based assessment for the engagement of State Law Officers.

The order passed by Justice Rajan Roy and Justice Om Prakash Shukla, addresses the critical issue of how many government advocates are required to represent the State of Uttar Pradesh in the High Court at Allahabad and its Lucknow Bench.

Background of the Case

The case, titled Mahendra Singh Pawar vs. State of U.P. Thru. Prin. Secy. To The C.M. & 2 Others (PIL No. 16009 of 2017), along with other related petitions, was brought before the court to challenge the arbitrary engagement of government advocates without a clear, need-based criterion.

Legal Issues Involved

1. Lack of Criteria for Engagement of Government Advocates: The petitioners contended that there was no established criterion for determining the number of government advocates required, leading to arbitrary appointments.

2. Non-Compliance with Supreme Court Directives: The petitioners highlighted that the directives from the Supreme Court, particularly in the case of State of Punjab and Anr. vs. Brijeshwar Singh Chahal and Anr. (2016) 6 SCC 1, were not being followed by the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Court’s Observations and Decision

The court, in its detailed judgment, made several critical observations:

– Need-Based Assessment: The court underscored the importance of a need-based assessment for engaging legal professionals. It noted that the pendency of cases alone could not be the sole criterion. Instead, factors such as the number of cases listed on a given day and the actual requirement of advocates should be considered.

  > “Need-based assessment would have to be made on the basis of other factors also such as the number of cases listed at Allahabad and Lucknow on a given day, including an assessment as to how many cases are ordinarily taken up.”

– Transparency and Fairness: The court emphasized that the process must be transparent and fair, ensuring equal opportunity for all eligible advocates. It criticized the current system for lacking a rational basis and being potentially influenced by extraneous factors.

  > “The numbers could vary and the variation could be in hundreds or two-hundreds. That is understandable but where is that assessment and where is the rational criteria/basis for it. That is missing as of now in the affidavit.”

– Public Money and Accountability: Highlighting the importance of accountability in the use of public funds, the court stressed that the engagement of State Law Officers should be justified with a clear and rational basis.

  > “After all, it is public money which is being spent and proper use of it should be made.”

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Directions Issued

The court directed the State of Uttar Pradesh to file a better affidavit by the second week of July 2024, detailing a realistic and need-based assessment for the engagement of government advocates. The affidavit should disclose the basis for the assessment and ensure that the process is not arbitrary or whimsical.

The case will be listed for further hearing in the third week of July 2024, where the court will review the compliance with its directions and take further steps as necessary.

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