The Delhi High Court has taken a serious note of non-payment of salary and ancillary expenses to public prosecutors by the AAP government, saying that it could “seriously impede proceedings” in criminal cases.
It said despite orders and directions, no steps “at all” have been taken to ensure payment of prosecutors’ fee.
“Rent, staff salary, subscriptions, conveyance etc. are such expenses which have to be incurred by lawyers, payment whereof does not wait. Essential personal expenses have also to be met.
“Anxiety about meeting these expenses, dissatisfaction and discontent amongst the prosecutors for non-payment of legitimate entitlement can seriously impede the assistance to courts on behalf of the state. The inevitable casualty has to be the criminal justice system,” a bench of Justices Gita Mittal and Anu Malhotra said.
It sought to know from offices of the lt. governor, the chief minister and his deputy whether any steps have been taken by them on the issue.
The court’s observation came during hearing of a plea relating to the welfare of families of prisoners.
Senior standing counsel of the Delhi government, Rahul Mehra mentioned the issue of non-payment of salary to the prosecutors during the hearing.
In September 2015, the high court had passed an order directing the authorities to take an expeditious decision.
It had said that the non-payment of fees may impact ultimate justice dispensation which ought not to be permitted under any circumstances.
The court referred to past directions and said that the non-payment of bills beyond the stipulated time amounted to violation its order.
“Our orders have been sent to the highest authorities. We enjoin upon Mehra to emphasise to the authorities concerned that failure to pay fees to the counsel as per settled norms, who represent the state before us, could be treated as an interference, and may even tantamount to obstructing administration of judicial function by this court.
“We are appalled by the manner in which the matter of payment of fees to the lawyers, who are assisting the courts in cases on behalf of the state in serious cases, is being dealt with. There cannot be a worst example of indifference to the cause of justice dispensation…,” the bench said yesterday.
It, however, refrained from taking any action after Mehra gave the assurance that a decision shall be taken on the grievance of the lawyers within a period of two weeks.