CVC probe finds loopholes in empanelment of advocates

A Central Vigilance Commission probe has found some loopholes in the empanelment of advocates allegedly on the basis of political recommendations and disproportionate allotment of work among them by the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The alleged irregularities were found in Judicial Section under the Department of Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Law and Justice which is responsible for the appointment of law officers to assist it in legal matters.

"Examination of allocation of cases to the panel counsels under Panel A for the period September 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010 showed that four out of 167 panel counsels got 27 per cent share of the total number of cases as each one of them

got more than 500 cases.

"On the whole, 74 per cent share of the total number of cases during the period went to 12 per cent of the panel counsels. On the other hand, 48 per cent of the panel counsels did not get any case during the period and 20 per cent of them were given insignificant quantity of work i.e. between 1 and 10 cases each during the year," according to the investigation, which began last year.

The stakes were higher in the allocation of work for Panel A counsels as the remuneration was higher. For regular appearance a Panel A counsel was paid Rs 4,500 per case per day and Rs 3,000 per case per day for other litigation

matters, it said.

As per the norms, advocates are empanelled as panel counsels to assist the law officers in dealing with the litigations on behalf of the Central government. The

empanelment of advocates is done in three categories—Panel-A, Panel-B and Panel-C--as per their seniority and experience.

The probe also found that the very categorisation of panel counsels as specialised in revenue and non revenue cases was not supported by a due process of scrutiny of experience or profile of the panel counsels.

"Examination by the CVC team showed that the empanelment of advocates as panel counsels by the judicial section of the Department of Legal Affairs was based largely on recommendations.

"Recommendations from very important persons viz. Solicitors or Additional Solicitors General of India, Ministers, Members of Parliament and other prominent persons were received by the Minister of Law and Justice and sometimes by the Secretary of the Department," it said in its report which has yet not reached its logical conclusion.

The probe, done on the basis of files pertaining empanelment of panel counsels conducted by the Judicial Wing for 2009 and 2010 among others method, was done by a team of senior CVC officials apparently on the basis of complaints of alleged corruption received by the probity watchdog.

The CVC team also observed that there was no system of monitoring of a litigation from starting to its conclusion.

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