New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has said that laying out a timeline for payment of bills is extremely crucial for the continued and efficient services of lawyers representing the Delhi government considering that those counsels are rendering regular assistance to the Court across the city of Delhi.
Justice Prathiba M Singh suggested that the entire process of clearing of lawyers' bills needs to be improved and timelines are required to be fixed, failing which, the Government ought to pay interest.
"Considering that the counsels for the GNCTD are rendering regular assistance to the Court across the city of Delhi, laying out a timeline for payment of their bills is extremely crucial for their continued and efficient services," the Court said.
The Court also directed the Additional Chief Secretary, who is now in charge of clearing the lawyers' bills, to appear before the Court on the next date of hearing, September 14 to apprise it of the further steps.
Further, a senior official from NIC who is handling/supervising the preparation of the Single Window System was also directed to appear before the Court on the next date.
The Court also sought to place on record the minutes of the meeting held for this purpose.
A status report, stating the various steps along with a timeline for operationalising the Single Window System, shall also be filed at least two days before the next date of hearing, the Court said.
Sanjay Kumar Aggarwal, Principal Secretary, Department of Law, Delhi Government who appeared before the Court, submitted that since clearing the bills of lawyers involves co-ordination between various departments, the Additional Chief Secretary has now been given this responsibility.
He further submitted that the services of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) are being availed of by the Delhi Government to create a Single Window System for clearance of the bills of lawyers.
However, when orally queried by the Court as to how long this would take, Aggarwal submitted that there are two steps which are involved, firstly, man-power has to be deputed for the software to be prepared on the basis of the inputs given by the various departments and secondly, the software has to be made operational.
The status report has stated that the IT Department has approved the deployment of technical resources for six months.
However, when queried, Aggarwal submitted that the first step of the process could take at least two months and after that, three to four months would be required for making the software operational.
"The timelines given by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) are not satisfactory, " the Court said.
The Court also observed that, in general, there is no doubt that insofar as the lawyers' bills are concerned, they take several months and sometimes years to process the same.
Advocate Shalini Nair, appearing for Anjana Gosain told the Court that as of today, even the bills of 2018 are pending. Advocate Nair further submitted that approximately Rs 40,000 has been paid since the last order and more than Rs 2 lakhs is still outstanding. "Though the Government Departments keep asking queries from the Petitioner, as they do not have any details of the cases etc, the amount has not yet been released," she said.
Advocate Sameer Vashisht, Additional Standing Counsel for Civil matter was representing Delhi Government in the matter.
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