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Evolving single-window system to pay lawyers’ fees, Delhi govt tells Delhi High Court

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The Delhi Government on Tuesday informed the Delhi High Court that the Government is in the process of evolving a methodology of a single-window system for the clearance of professional bills of empanelled counsels.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing a plea seeking directions for the clearance of professional fees of advocates.

The Bench orally remarked that at least the bills which are pending for more than six months must be cleared.

Delhi govt hasn’t cleared counsels’ fees for 4-5 years, says its additional standing counsel

Advocate Santosh Kumar Tripathi, representing the Delhi Government, submitted that there is no unified single window system as yet for clearance of bills. But the same is expected to be put in place soon.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, submitted that insofar as the Centre is concerned, the direction passed by the High Court has been substantially complied with as maximum pendency has been cleared.

Delhi Government Additional Standing Counsel Naushad Ahmed Khan submitted that the bills of a large number of government counsels have not been cleared since past 4-5 years. He pointed out the lacuna in the system followed by the Delhi Government, wherein the bill passes though multiple platforms during the process of clearance. He submitted that this is a tedious process and has led to huge pendency. 

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While supporting the Delhi Government’s decision to adopt a single window system, he said: “We can be in line with the system adopted by the Central Government.” 

The Bench slated the matter for further hearing on November 30. 

Undue hardship due to long pendency of bills

The petition has been filed by Advocate Piyush Gupta, Co-Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi, through Advocate Kapil Goyal, seeking directions to immediately clear the pending professional fees of panel advocates of the Centre, State Government, and other departments.

The plea avers that a large number of counsels, empanelled to represent different government authorities, are facing undue financial hardship owing to long pendency of their professional fee bills. 

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It is stated that government counsels play a vital role in justice delivery system, but it is unfortunate that the administration shows no concern towards clearance of their bills. The plea points out that various representations have been made to the concerned authorities, but no action has been taken as yet. In addition, it is pointed out that the concerned authorities have even failed to adhere to the specific directions passed by the court  vide order dated September 3, 2015.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan had, on an earlier occasion, asked the Centre, the Delhi Government and other departments to clear the bills which are pending for more than six months “as early as possible and practicable”.

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