Over 100 crores paid to lawyers by BMC in 13 years
There seem to be no norms for hiring of senior lawyers by the Central or a state government to fight high-profile cases, but the kind of remuneration paid to them has raised the eyebrows. In a reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the deputy law officer of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has informed that between the period 2001 and 2014, the BMC paid a whooping Rs 105 crore in fees to the lawyers to represent it in various courts. Out of the amount paid to a total of 151 lawyers, nearly half went to the top ten lawyers namely,
· K.K. Sanghvi (Rs 19.13 crore),
· Anil Sakhre (Rs 10.58 crore),
· G.E. Vahanvaty (Rs 4.90 crore),
· E.P. Bharucha (Rs 4.28 crore),
· S.U. Kamdar (Rs 3.65 crore),
· Ramesh Bhat (Rs 2.63 crore),
· Pallav Sisodiya (Rs 2.6 crore),
· J. Rais (Rs 1.85 crore),
· B.L. Chabbria (Rs 1.80 crore) and
· Subhash Vyas (Rs 1.80 crore).
The law department further informed Anil Galgali that the quantum of court cases along with the fees paid to lawyers could not be provided as no such independent record are available. BMC grants sanctions and approvals in matters ranging from construction to shop licences and there are over 70,000 cases of the BMC pending in Supreme Court, High Courts, city, civil, sessions, small causes courts and industrial tribunes. Such a high number of cases and the fact that they result into spending of tax-payer’s money leads to some basic questions:
1. Are the BMC rules and procedures confusing / complex which results into such litigation? If so, they need to be simplified.
2. Are there efforts to avoid litigations? They do not seem to be working and needs scrutiny.
3. Is there a mechanism to punish those who unnecessarily drag the BMC into litigation?
In an unrelated event, it was reported earlier that the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana paid Rs 5.5 crore to a KTS Tulsi to prosecute workers accused of violence at Maruti's plant in Manesar. Tulsi is now a Congress Rajya Sabha MP and he charged Rs. 11 lakh for a single appearance in the Gurgaon Additional District and Sessions Court as the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP). Tulsi's three assistants were paid Rs. 66,000 for each appearance along with a “clerkage” of over Rs. 1 lakh for his expenses resulting in a total of over Rs. 5 crore in two years.
There might be many similar cases around the country. Can anything be done to avoid a spending of money on such events?