The Supreme Court is set to consider the question whether the legal consultant of a Corporation is eligible to be enrolled as an Advocate.
The Petition before the Court challenges an order passed by the division bench of the Gujarat High Court, which had upheld a single bench ruling that a law graduate working as a legal consultant with a corporation with a contract in the nature of a full-time job is not eligible for enrolment as a lawyer to practice law.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta has issued notice on her petition returnable on 8 March.
“The petitioner who is appearing in person says that she is not an employee of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation and, therefore, she is entitled to be enrolled as an advocate. Issue notice returnable on 8th March, 2018.”
Ms. Jalpa, who was working as a legal consultant at the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), had approached the High Court contending that her engagement with the corporation was only contractual and that it was not a full-time employment which attracts the bar to practice as an Advocate.
The single Judge had dismissed her plea, upholding the stand taken by the Bar Council that having regard to the nature of engagement of the petitioner with the Corporation and the conditions attendant to the engagement as legal assistant, it was not permissible to enroll her to the rolls.
In the Writ Appeal filed before the division bench, a fresh prayer was made seeking a declaration that the applicant, who is rendering her service in the legal department as the legal expert of other allied departments, should be considered as an eligible candidate for the post of Civil Judge. She had contended that she should be permitted to participate in the recruitment process as the employees working in the Courts or other allied departments were permitted to do so.
The Court, however, did not agree with this contention, observing, "It is not in dispute that the petitioner has to be in the office from11:00 am to 5:00 pm, which are standard hours of work and, therefore, the same can be considered as full time employment. If we consider the dictionary meaning of ‘salary’, it is nothing but fixed regular payment made by an employer to an employee in return of work."
The Court had also observed that the word ‘full time’ used in Rule 49 of Bar Council of India Rules is to be considered as meaning"full-time office standard number of hours". It then noted that one of the conditions in the agreement entered into between Ms. Jalpa and GIDC was that she has to be in the office from 11 am to 5 pm. This, it observed, meant that she was in a full-time employment with GIDC.