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HC pulls up Maharashtra government for not paying Govt pleaders

Directing Maharashtra Government to pay fees of a public prosecutor who had appeared for the state in 77 cases in land acquisition matters, the Bombay High Court has asked the state to formulate a policy for payment of dues to pleaders within a reasonable time frame.

Such a policy be placed before the Court on or before July 30, said a bench of Justices M S Sonak and Abhay Oka while hearing a petition filed by prosecutor Suresh Kamble. The Judges also suggested that if there is delay in payment of bills or denial of payment, the State will have to provide for a redressal mechanism for the Government Pleaders or Public Prosecutors so as to avoid litigations in Courts. The bench also expressed dissatisfaction over the fee structure payable to the government lawyers saying it was too conservative.

If the state Government wants competent lawyers to become the Government Pleaders, it will have to make an improvement in the fee structure, the judges opined. Recommending to revise the fees given in Government Resolution of February 15, 2014, the Judges directed the state to constitute a Committee headed by the Advocate General to consider the issue prescribe a revised fee structure.

The Judges also imposed costs of Rs 25,000 on the State and directed that this may be paid to the petitioner as the issue he had raised in the petition was quite serious. The Court directed the State to pay the petitioner his dues within two months along with nine per cent interest and also pay interest on the fee amount already paid to him. The petitioner claimed that he had appeared in 77 cases for a fee of Rs 3,000 each and Rs 2,31,000 with interest was due to him. A part payment of Rs 96,000 was, however, made to him before and during the pendency of the petition. The Government contended, that in December 2005 it had paid the petitioner fees of Rs 96,000 in 32 cases wherein judgement had been delivered. In 35 other cases, the judgement had not been delivered and hence his fees had not been paid.

The state argued that in another four cases, fees had been paid to another pleader who appeared at the time of final judgement. In two other cases, the petitioner did not appear. Two cases were repeated by the petitioner in his claim amount by mistake. In yet another matter, it was a case of appeal and not a reference of land acquisition. In one more matter, National Highways Authority was liable to pay, the State said.

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