While noting that despite the Court's Order, the bills of the empanelled lawyers are not being cleared and that they are being compelled to file writ petitions for the same, the Delhi High Court last week directed the Law Secretary, GNCTD to clear the bills of an Advocate (Writ Petitioner) within a period of 30 days.
The Bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh was hearing the plea of one Pranay Ranjan (a lawyer by profession) who filed a Writ Petition against the GNCTD seeking payment of his professional bills.
After hearing his grievance, the Court noted that it had already passed an order wherein it was directed that an Online Single Window System be created for clearance of professional bills.
Court's earlier Order
In the case of Piyush Gupta v. GNCTD & Ors. W.P.(C) 5373/2020, the Delhi High Court, in August 2020, had directed the Delhi Government, Union of India, as well as the various municipal corporations of Delhi, to clear the bills of various government counsel within 4 weeks.
[NOTE: The order had come in a plea moved by Advocate Piyush Gupta seeking clearing of bills of various government counsel engaged with the Delhi Government, Union of India, and various municipal bodies, that have been kept pending for long.
'Government counsel play a vital role in justice delivery system but, unfortunately, the administration has no concern for their livelihood as their professional bills are lying pending since which is their only source of income', the petition had stated.]
In this matter (Piyush Gupta), the Court had observed,
"Several grievances have been ventilated about the non-payment of professional fee/retainership fee bills of empanelled lawyers, which are outstanding for long time, by the respondents"
Further, the Court had also directed the respondents,
"To make the outstanding payments of the professional fee/retainership fee bills of the lawyers which have been received by the respondents on or before 01st February 2020."
Court's order in the instant matter
Significantly, in the instant case, the Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that during the pendency of the writ, professional bills of the year 2019 were cleared, however, the bills of the year 2018 were still pending.
In this backdrop, the Court directed the Law Secretary, GNCTD to clear the bills of the petitioner within a period of 30 days.
Lastly, the Court also remarked,
"All pending applications are also disposed of. The Petitioner is permitted to move an application if the dues are not cleared, in which case, the Court would be constrained to direct payment of interest on the outstanding dues and impose costs."
Case title - Pranay Ranjan v. Govt. Of NCT of Delhi through Chief Secretary