SC rejects pleas of UP on renewal of contract of govt lawyers

SC has dismissed a batch of UP govt`s appeals against HC verdicts, which had set aside its decision against renewing its contracts with lawyers.

New Delhi: In a set back to the Uttar Pradesh government, the Supreme Court has dismissed a batch of its appeals against the Allahabad High Court verdicts, which had set aside its decision against renewing its contracts with lawyers appointed in various districts.

"Total non-application of mind and the order being supported by no reason whatsoever would render the order passed as arbitrary.

Arbitrariness shall vitiate the administrative order," Justices Swatanter Kumar and Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya said while upholding the decisions of the high court.

"The arbitrary act of the state cannot be excluded from the ambit of judicial review merely on the ground that it is a contractual matter," Justice Kumar, writing the verdict for the bench, said.

The UP government, in as many as 18 appeals, had assailed various judgements of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, which had set aside its decisions not to renew the contracts of government lawyers after expiry of their terms.

"The order (of UP) dated April 3, 2008, is even liable to be quashed on another ground, that it is a non-speaking order also suffering from the vice of non-application of mind. As already discussed, the government has taken an en-block decision, without recording any reason, not to renew the term of any of the government counsel. That itself shows that there is no application of mind," the apex court said and rejected the appeals of the state government.

Declining to "interfere" with high court verdicts, it asked the state to consider and decide within three months the lawyers` pleas for renewal of their contracts under the rules prescribed on the issue.

The rules provide "a procedure and even require the state
government to consider the case for renewal of the government counsel whose term is coming to an end," the court said.

It also said the state government failed to put on record anything which could "demonstrate" that the view taken by the high court suffered "any infirmity."

The "non-speaking" order, without assigning any reason, to not to renew lawyers` contracts was an "arbitrary exercise of power by the state," it said.

Various lawyers, including one Ashok Kumar Nigam, were appointed as district government counsel in 2004 through a government notification.

Later, their contracts were not renewed. The lawyers moved the high court saying they have a right to continue and the state had passed the "non-speaking" orders trashing the recommendations of district judges on renewal of contracts.

Allowing the pleas, the high court had said the lawyers "be allowed to continue to discharge the functions and duties of the district government counsel, till consideration of the renewal of his term in accordance with the law."

Aggrieved by the judgements, the state had moved the apex court which dismissed its appeals, upholding the high court decisions.


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