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SC: Law officer appointment should be transparent, not 'political appeasement'

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the appointment of law officers to represent governments in courts cannot be an act of “political appeasement” and must be transparent.

Law officers are important positions and there has to be a semblance of selection process, said an apex court bench of Justice TS Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph.

Pointing out that “normally people picked (as law officers) are known”, the court said there were instances when people engaged in other vocations, including politics, were appointed government counsel.

Taking exception to such appointments made by state governments, Justice Thakur said: “Some people grace the office (they come to occupy) and (in other cases) office graces the person.”

The court’s strong observation came in the course of the hearing of a plea by the Punjab government challenging a September 2013 order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The high court had refused to interfere with a single judge order of October 21, 2011 that the services of Brijeshwar Singh Chahal as the law officer not be terminated.

The single judge, by another order of October 18, 2012, had said the matter required a detailed hearing.

Favouring “transparency” and “objectivity” in the selection process, the apex court said from the kind of appointment being made and the remuneration being paid, it appeared “it is a some kind of pension. Lakhs of rupees are going down the drain just for doing nothing”.

The apex court said there has to be some “objective basis or justification” for the appointment of Additional Advocate General.

Apparently not satisfied with the affidavit filed by the Punjab government in response to the questions framed by the court by its April 2014 order, the court noted that Punjab had 74 Additional Advocate General, five Senior Deputy Advocate General, 40 Deputy Advocate General, 55 Assistant Advocate General and two Advocate on Record.

The court noted that there were 40 courts in Punjab, and even if there was one committed law officer for each court, that would have been sufficient.

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