Ensure fees to lawyers engaged by govt cleared in reasonable time: Delhi HC

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has directed governments and their departments to ensure that fees of advocates engaged by them is cleared within a reasonable time from submission of bills so that they are not forced to file petitions seeking their dues.

Justice Prathiba M Singh said that under no circumstances should an advocate hired by them be forced to sue his or her own client for payment of fees.

The direction and observations by the court came while directing the Delhi government to pay within one month the pending retainership payments of one of its lawyers who had to file a petition in the High Court over non-payment of his professional fees.

Justice Singh said: 'The fact that the petitioner (lawyer) was forced to approach this court is extremely unfortunate... The respective governments /departments are expected to clear the professional bills of the lawyers within a reasonable time. 'Under no circumstances should a counsel who has been engaged by the government/department be forced to sue his/her own client, especially a government or its agency, and seek legal remedies for seeking clearance of his/her professional fee. Needless to add, governments/ departments are directed to ensure that the fees of the lawyers appointed by them are cleared within a reasonable time after the bills are submitted to them and lawyers are not forced to file petitions for the said purpose.' According to the petitioner-lawyer, he was appointed as the Additional Standing Counsel (Civil) on June 24, 2016. Between July 2016 and August 2017, he submitted various bills for the professional services rendered by him, which constituted about 124 bills. The appointment of the petitioner was withdrawn by the Delhi government on September 8, 2017, however, his bills totalling to Rs 26,31,200 were not cleared.

Subsequently, he moved the court seeking directions to the Delhi government to clear his bills.

In September 2020, the Delhi government informed the court that bills of the petitioner have been sanctioned and sanction letters have been issued.

In October 2020, the court was informed that two of the three sanction orders were credited to the petitioner's account, but the monthly retainership amount has not been paid. PTI HMP SA