The Delhi high court has directed the Delhi government to set up a centralized scheme for timely payment of outstanding bills of counsel, who are representing it before courts, so that they are not made to run from pillar to post.
"Considering the fact that counsel cannot be made to wait endlessly for clearing of their outstanding payments for the professional services they have rendered, there ought to be a proper streamlined mechanism which is centralised to expedite and make timely payment," Justice Prathiba M Singh said in the order passed on Wednesday.
The judge directed the Law Secretary, Delhi government to hold a meeting with relevant departments for setting up the system and called for a report within four weeks.
"This would ensure that counsel are not made to run from pillar to post for submitting their bills, getting the same approved and thereafter, for following up on payment from the department/authority concerned.", the court opined.
"In order to ensure that such a mechanism is put in place, it is directed that the Law Secretary, GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) would hold a meeting with relevant departments of the GNCTD and put up a proper centralized scheme for payment of counsels'' bills.", it ordered.
The Law Secretary is requested to join the present proceedings virtually on the next date in order to appraise the Court of the recommendations made in the report, the court said.
The order was passed on a petition by a Delhi government counsel for clearance of her outstanding bills.
Advocate Anjana Gosain submitted that her professional bills were not being cleared by the Delhi government in spite of repeated emails and communications.
The court noted that the present petition was filed way back in 2019 and despite two years having passed, outstanding bills were not paid.
Even the order of this court has had no impact, the judge said and recorded that the present case was "not the first such case and the problem seems to be endemic".
Delhi government said that the cause of delay was that there are various authorities who need to process the bills.
The court stated that after receiving the report from the Delhi government, it would consider whether heavy costs and interest on the delayed payment would be imposed in the present case for the delayed period.
Further hearing in the matter would take place on 20 August.