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Panel lawyers to be retained six weeks post-govt. change to avert adjournments

Panel lawyers to be retained six weeks post-govt. change to avert adjournments

In a recent directive, the importance of maintaining continuity in the representation of government cases by panel lawyers, particularly in the aftermath of political regime changes within States and Union Territories, has been underscored by the Supreme Court. 

The pronouncement comes as a response to the observed disruptions caused by swift alterations in legal representation, leading to unnecessary delays in court proceedings.

Emphasizing the adverse impact of the prevalent practice, wherein panel lawyers are swiftly replaced following a change in government leadership, a bench comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan noted that this abrupt transition often results in frequent adjournments, causing inconvenience to both judicial processes and litigants alike.

Acknowledging the rightful authority of States and Union Territories to appoint and alter their empaneled advocates, the Court nonetheless advocated for a more measured approach. It was suggested that a transitional period of at least six weeks be implemented, wherein the existing panel of government lawyers continues to represent the state's interests following a change in political administration. 

Such a provision, the court believes, would mitigate the need for repeated adjournments and ensure the uninterrupted functioning of judicial proceedings.

The directive, issued during the course of a hearing concerning a bail plea by an individual accused of examination malpractice in Uttarakhand, reflects the court's proactive stance in addressing systemic issues affecting the legal landscape. 

Notably, the court's intervention in the particular case stemmed from concerns raised regarding the State's frequent requests for adjournments attributed to changes in panel advocates.

In response to the court's inquiry, the State government clarified that the alteration in panel lawyers was prompted by their prolonged tenure of eight years, underscoring the necessity for periodic review and refreshment of legal representation. However, the Supreme Court's directive underscores the importance of balancing administrative prerogatives with the imperatives of judicial efficiency and fairness.

Subsequently, the Supreme Court's decision on the bail plea in question exemplifies its commitment to upholding the principles of justice while considering individual cases. 

After a thorough examination of the circumstances, including the filing of charges, framing of accusations, and the duration of incarceration, the court granted bail to the appellant, taking into account the precedent set by the bail granted to other co-accused individuals.

Case: Sachin Kumar vs State of Uttarakhand,

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S).1843 OF 2024 (ARISING OUT OF S.L.P. (CRIMINAL) NO(S).16513/2023).

Click to read/download order.

 

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