The Himachal Pradesh High Court has slammed the state government for its reliance on lawyers other than those from the state advocate generals office. The court directed Chief Secretary Sudripta Roy to file an affidavit detailing the expenditure incurred by the government,over the last ten years,in engaging private counsel while avoiding the services of the advocate general and government advocates. The period covers that of the incumbent BJP government and the previous Congress regime.
In the order passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary,the chief secretary has been directed to explain as to whether in such cases the government had duly looked into the justification for engagement of a counsel other than the advocate general and government advocates. The order was passed while the bench was hearing a contempt petition,filed by one Rajinder Mohan Sharma,against the state for not complying with an earlier High Court order.
The petitioner had earlier filed a writ petition against the state for not ensuring that his pay was on par with the salaries drawn by other IPS officers (particularly K K Indoria and Himanshu Mishra),who were junior to him and had been promoted to the IPS after him. Sharma had demanded the arrears in salary from January 1,2006 and additional interest of 9 per cent. The court had allowed the petition.
Sharma then filed a contempt petition against the Ajay Mittal,Principal Secretary (Home) and now chief ministers principal secretary for not complying with the courts orders.
During the hearing,the court found that the state government was spending a huge amount in engaging private counsel to fight contempt petitions involving government officials. In its previous order,the Court has observed that contempt was a personal action and had nothing to do with the official discharge of duties. taking this into account,the court has now sought the affidavit regarding the expenses incurred.
Earlier,the Himachal Lokhit Party – a breakaway group of the BJP – had accused the state government of spending huge amounts of public money in engaging outside lawyers from Delhi and Chandigarh while avoiding the advocate general and his team.