The Gujarat High Court, in Jalpa Pradeepbhai Desai vs Bar Council of India, has held that a legal consultant of a corporation is not eligible to apply for a judicial service examination.
A division bench of Gujarat High Court comprising Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice Vipul M Pancholi made this observation while upholding a single bench judgment 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.
Jalpa, who was working as a legal consultant in Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation, had approached the high court contending that her engagement with the corporation is only contractual and it is not a full-time employment which attracts the bar to practice as an advocate. The single bench, dismissing her plea, had upheld 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 preferred before the division bench, a fresh prayer was made seeking a declaration that the applicant who is rendering her service in legal department as legal expert of other allied departments are to be considered as an eligible candidate for the post of civil judge.
Referring to relevant rules, the court observed that Jalpa is not an employee of an allied department as provided in Clause 11(7) of the advertisement and she is working with the GIDC and, therefore, she is not entitled to participate in the recruitment process for the post of civil judges.
“In absence of any challenge to the Rules, it is not open for the petitioner to seek a prayer that she may be permitted to participate in the recruitment process,” the bench said.
Upholding the single bench order, the division bench observed thus: “It is not in dispute that the petitioner has to be in the office from 11:00 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 bench also observed that the word 'full time' used in Rule 49 of the Rules is also to be considered as full-time office standard number of hours. And one of the conditions in the agreement entered into between the petitioner and GIDC is that the petitioner has to be in the office from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm, which are standard hours of work and therefore the same has to be considered as full time employment, the bench observed.