BMC spends Rs 60 crore in 5 years to outsource legal counsellors

Despite having 100-odd lawyers in its legal department, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has shelled out an exorbitant amount to hire lawyers from external firms since 2009. Reason: Due to a lack of stenographers, clerks and filing clerks, the legal eagles of the civic body are stuck doing routine work instead of representing the municipal body and fighting cases on its behalf in court

They are known as individuals who fight for justice. But what happens when they are compelled to do clerical work and are reduced to stenographers, clerks and filing clerks? This is the fate of around 100-odd lawyers of the Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation (BMC). As a result, the civic body has spent as much as R60 crore over the last five years to hire 186 legal eagles from external law firms.

According to data provided by the Law Department, BMC hired 186 counsellors for all courts (Supreme Court to Lower Court) and 4,524 cases were allotted to them over the last five years
According to data provided by the Law Department, BMC hired 186 counsellors for all courts (Supreme Court to Lower Court) and 4,524 cases were allotted to them over the last five years

Despite having enough legal staff to fight their cases, the BMC is spending a chunk of public money on hiring lawyers. Corporators have slammed the civic body’s law department and questioned the BMC about “unexplained” hiring of these 186 counsellors. Even hiring so much reputed counsel has not served the purpose, as most of the cases are still pending.

Law Committee Chairman, advocate Gyanmurti Sharma said, “Unfortunately, our law department lacks competent lawyers as the hiring process is not up to the mark. This compels us to rely on outside lawyers who have to represent us. If our lawyers had enough time to prepare for cases they would represent us in court.”

He continued, “The BMC uses these counsels’ services because our lawyers are stuck with doing routine clerical work due to shortage of stenographers, clerks, filing clerks and the administration doesn’t understand the necessity of the clerical staff.”

Despite having enough legal staff to fight their cases, the Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation (BMC) is spending  public money on hiring lawyers. File pic
Despite having enough legal staff to fight their cases, the Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation (BMC) is spending public money on hiring lawyers. File pic

This startling fact came to light after Shiv Sena corporator Ramakant Rahate sought information from the BMC’s law department five months ago to provide data of the last five years of the number of counsellors hired by BMC. According to data given by Law Department this month, BMC hired 186 counsellors for all courts (Supreme Court to Lower Court) and 4,524 cases have been given to them. Out of these 2,023 cases are still pending and 1,429 cases have been disposed.

Rahate alleged, “Often advocates from our law department ‘intentionally’ skip the dates when they are supposed to be present in courts. This leads to several cases pending and indirectly benefits the opposite party. I had asked the civic body to give names of all the private counsellor whose services have been used but they didn't provide that data.”

When contacted, BMC’s law officer Ujwala Deshpande denied to comment on the issue.

Department functioning
The law officer is in charge of BMC’s law department. Under him, there are three joint law officers and 10 deputy law officers who look after all the court matters. There are also junior law officers in 24 wards. The 100 advocates are paid an amount of Rs 30,000 to Rs 70,000, as per their designation.

Did you know?
Early this month, the Bombay High Court asked the BMC to consider increasing the number of law officers deputed to courts. A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice AP Bhangale said the lack of adequate law officers in courts was leading to delays in hearings

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