Should private lawyers be allowed to defend a government servant in the court of law?
Reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that the University of Mumbai spent over Rs. 12 lakhs as legal fee to defend the petition challenging the appointment of Dr. Rajan Welukar as Vice - Chancellor. As per the information received, advocate Navin Prakash was paid Rs. 8 lakh to present the case of the respondent in the case of two different special leave petitions filed by Dr Arun Sawant in the Supreme Court. The data shows that an amount of Rs. 4.10 lakh was further paid as professional fees to advocates A.R. Dada (Rs. 3,30,000/-), Naushad Engineer (Rs. 45,000/-) and Sagar Nadekar (Rs. 35,000/-) to represent the University of Mumbai in three petitions in the Bombay High Court.
The high legal fees has raised eyebrows and the RTI applicant Anil Galgali has pointed that the university of Mumbai has a panel of advocates and spending such a huge amount on external lawyers for defending oneself using the university funds by the vice chancellor was unfortunate.
The incidence raises two issues:
1. The quality of advocates on the panel in most of the government organisations leave much to be desired. They are paid pittance and the payments are delayed thereby leading to a situation where the brightest of the lawyers prefer not to be on the panel.
2. There has been a quantum jump in litigation in the recent past and more such cases are likely to emerge in future. Should the money earmarked for a university, be used for such litigation? This ethical angle is likely to recur as there could possibly be many cases where an able person is pulled down in a court by a battery of lawyers just because the government advocate is unable to defend the appointment.
Readers may like to give their views.