Ministries should not hire private lawyers but use the services of government advocates, according to a directive issued by the Law Ministry which has taken “serious objection” to the practise of various departments engaging private counsels.
The Law Ministry has told all the ministries that if there is any “compelling reason” to hire a private advocate, they should “invariably” seek prior approval of the Department of Legal Affairs.
“It has been observed that some ministries engage private advocates outside the panel on very high fee without seeking prior approval of the department…The honourable (Law) minister has taken serious objection to the practise…,” Department of Legal Affairs in the Law Ministry said in a recent office memorandum circulated to all ministries and departments.
It said in future, the proposals seeking ex-post facto approval for engagement of private advocates will not be considered or approved by the Law Ministry “except in exceptional circumstances warranting emergent action in public interest.”
Referring to present provisions for engagement of private lawyers not part of the government panel, it said such proposals should be approved by the minister of the concerned ministry and sent to the Law Minister for his clearance. “Such approval should be obtained before engaging a private advocate,” it said.
The Law Ministry took objection to the practise after it found several such instances where advocates outside government panel were hired at exorbitant fee without consulting the Department of Legal Affairs.