Will set guidelines for law officers’ appointment: SC

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Old 11-Sep-2015
Post Will set guidelines for law officers’ appointment: SC

The Supreme Court today said it will issue broad guidelines for the appointment of law officers as the Centre and most of the states, including Punjab and Haryana, did not have any transparent and objective criteria for the purpose. It also suggested a performance audit for such officers to ensure they had sufficient work.
A Bench comprising Justices TS Thakur and Kurian Joseph pointed out that about 50 per cent of law officers virtually had no work but were getting huge salaries at the cost of the tax payer.
The Bench made the remark after noticing that both Punjab and Haryana had over 170 such officers each and paying them in the range of Rs 28,000 to Rs 1.4 lakh a month in addition to conveyance, telephone and medical allowances.
Much bigger states such as Bihar had smaller teams of law officers, it noted. At this, a lawyer in the court noted that Punjab was a “fertile state,” evoking derisive acknowledgment by the Bench and others in the court. The Bench noted that Bihar had 40 seats in the Lok Sabha, while Punjab had only 13.
The apex court, however, clarified it would not put a cap on the number of law officers for each state. Nor its guidelines would prescribe a straight jacket method. All that was required was to ensure a semblance of fairness and objectivity in the process, while letting the states to have their own mechanism. It indicated that the guidelines would make the states at least consult the high courts, if not taking the HCs’ concurrence, before the appointments.
The SC was initially hearing an appeal from Punjab in 2014 over the appointment procedure, while similar plea questioning the method in Haryana came this year. After noticing the problem in the two states, the court enlarged the scope of the case and asked the Centre and the states to submit their methods of appointment.
The Bench framed five questions and sought replies from the states. These pertained to the procedure, the existence or absence of selection and search committees, consultation with the respective high courts and the total number of law officers and their terms of appointment.
At the conclusion of arguments today, the Bench reserved its verdict that would contain the guidelines.
After being pointed out by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar that the SC had described as arbitrary the termination of all the law officers by Uttar Pradesh in 1990, the Bench said the same logic held good for the appointment as well.
Acknowledging that complaints against appointments might continue even after search and selection committees and an objective and transparent drill was put in place, the Bench said such a mechanism would at least serve as a good defence against criticism. It was also bound to ensure that a maximum percentage of appointments were on the basis of merit and suitability.

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