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Fees To Lawyers Engaged by Government Should Be Cleared in Reasonable Time: Delhi High Court

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5 years of education, sleepless nights, years of hard work, finally one gets a case. Hours of research goes into preparation for each case. After all this, the lawyers who argued are not paid. Even when they argue on behalf of the government.

Facts of the Case

The petitioner in the said case is a lawyer who was appointed as the Additional Standing Counsel (Civil) on June 24, 2016. He had submitted about 124 bills for professional services rendered by him between July 2016 and August 2017. The appointment of the petitioner was withdrawn on September 8, 2017, by the Delhi government, but this was done without clearing his fees which amounted to Rs 26,31,200. The petitioner then moved to Court asking the Court to provide with directions for clearing his dues. In September 2020, the Delhi government told the Court that the sanction letters have been issued and the payment had been sanctioned. In October 2020, the Court was informed that 2 of the 3 sanction orders were credited but the monthly relationship had not been paid.

Decision

Justice Prathiba M Singh directed the government to clear the fees of the said advocate. It was held that governments and departments were to ensure that the fees of the advocated that they hire is cleared with reasonable time from submission of bills. It was also held that under no circumstances should an advocate be forced to be file a suit against his/ her own client for payment of fees. The Court directed the government to pay within one month the retainership payments of the petitioner.

While stating that

“Under no circumstances should a counsel who has been engaged by the government/ department be forced to sue his/ her client, especially a government or its agency, and seek legal remedies for seeking clearance of his/ her professional fee. Needless to add governments/ departments are directed to ensure that the fees of the lawyers appointed by them cleared within a reasonable time after the bills are submitted to them and lawyers are not forced to file petitions for the said purpose”

the Courts recognised the importance of payment of fees, thereby reinforcing the key concepts of right to payment and right to dignity of labour. The incident was stated as “extremely unfortunate” by the Court as it “expected of the clients to clear and pay fees within a reasonable time.”


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