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The Law Officers engaged by the government, during their performance of the duty, are not holding any civil post. They are also not government servants and/or government employees," the bench noted
The Madras High Court has emphasized that merit should be the sole criterion in appointing law officers to the high court and its Madurai Bench, with no scope for reservation, either vertical or horizontal.
The court maintained that the government is not obligated to provide reservation when appointing law officers," as the established procedure is transparent and devoid of arbitrariness.
The bench of Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy, in dismissing the plea filed by one Thol Thirumaavalavan, President of Viduthalai Cchirutthagal Katchi (VCK), seeking to quash government rules related to the appointment of Law Officers to the High Court of Madras and its Madurai Bench, emphasized that the selection of Law Officers by the government is not a civil service, and these officers do not function as government employees, therefore, the primary consideration during their selection should be competence, capability, and merit.
The court stressed that the government has a duty to earnestly select the best and most meritorious lawyers as law officers, with the goal of safeguarding public interest. It highlighted the necessity for transparency in the selection process, advocating for a broad-based invitation for applications to ensure the selection of the most competent individuals.
Through the plea, the petitioner sought a new rule to ensure transparency as per the Apex Court Judgment and ensure adequate representation to women, SC/STs, and Minorities and public notification for inviting applications from all eligible advocate candidates in the appointment of law officers.
He contended that the 2017 Rules for the appointment of law officers were arbitrary and unjust, especially regarding the absence of reservation for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. He also raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the selection process, advocating for a fair and transparent procedure to uplift marginalized groups.
Before the court, the Advocate General clarified that law officers are not government employees but professional practitioners engaged for specific tasks. Citing the judgment in Indra Sawney v Union of India, the State argued that in certain services and positions, providing for reservation is not advisable. The State maintained that appointments were made following the 2017 Rules.
The court, recognizing the government's role as the custodian of public interest, emphasized the professional relationship between the government and law officers.
"The Law Officers engaged by the government, during their performance of the duty, are not holding any civil post. They are also not government servants and/or government employees. The appointment of these Law Officers is at the pleasure of the government," the court said.
Therefore, the court ruled that Article 16(4) of the Constitution and the reservation policy-– vertical and/or horizontal did not apply to these appointments. Consequently, the court upheld the existing procedures and dismissed the pleas.
Case Title: Thol.Thirumaavalavan v. The Principal Secretary Department of Law Government of Tamilnadu and Others
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