The Union Law Ministry has set new rules of engagement as far as use of private counsels by ministries is concerned.
Following strictures passed by the Supreme Court in the coal scam over sharing of vital investigation reports with the government, the ministry has set new rules for private counsels who appear before courts on behalf of various ministries.
According to the December 2013 draft, engagement of private counsels over and above government-appointed counsels would not be approved if prior sanction was not taken.
Pointing out that engagement of private counsels was against the spirit of the allocation of business rules, the ministry stated: “As per the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, and with a view to smooth conduct of litigation on behalf of the Centre, the department has appointed 20 law officers, comprising Attorney General of India and Solicitor Generals. It has also appointed 29 Additional Solicitor Generals and a number of counsels in various courts/tribunals on certain terms and conditions but still requests for special counsel are routinely being made without the prior approval of the Law Ministry.” “A counsel not on the panel will be engaged only in very exceptional cases,” the draft said. During the coal scam hearing, the apex court had questioned the government counsel whether he had shared the contents of the investigation report with the concerned minister or not. The counsel replied in the positive and the court then directed the government not to share vital probe reports with anyone except the appointed counsel whose name would be first submitted before the court.