In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court has underscored the importance of ensuring timely payment of fees to advocates representing state governments. The court’s observation came in response to a petition filed by the State of Uttar Pradesh challenging an order by the Allahabad High Court, which directed the state to pay interest on outstanding dues to an advocate.

A bench comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan emphasized that creating a situation where advocates representing the state are compelled to approach the court for fee recovery could discourage talented members of the legal profession from representing Uttar Pradesh. The court urged the state to implement a proper and rational policy to ensure that advocates’ fees are paid promptly and within a reasonable timeframe.

The case originated when the State of Uttar Pradesh filed a petition challenging the Allahabad High Court’s directive to pay interest on outstanding dues owed to an advocate. The state had already paid the outstanding fees amounting to Rs. 10,11,000 to the advocate after the filing of the writ petition. However, it had not provided interest on the outstanding dues from March 2021 onwards.

Accepting the advocate’s submission that the state should compensate for the delay in payment by paying interest, the High Court directed Uttar Pradesh to pay interest at a rate of 8% per annum on the outstanding dues from the time they became due until payment.

In response, the State of Uttar Pradesh appealed to the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court’s order to pay interest on the outstanding dues to the advocate.

The Supreme Court, while acknowledging the need to address the concerns raised by the advocate, modified the High Court’s order. It reduced the amount of interest payable to the respondent lawyer to a lump sum of Rs. 50,000.

The court noted, “In this case, the amount of interest payable is Rs. 1,16,397 in terms of the impugned order of the High Court. Considering the peculiar facts of this case, we exercise our jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India to reduce the interest payable to the respondent to a lump sum of Rs. 50,000, which shall be paid by the State to the respondent within a period of six weeks from today, failing which it will carry interest at the rate of 8% per annum from the date of this order.”

This ruling underscores the Supreme Court’s stance on ensuring fair compensation for advocates representing state governments and the importance of prompt payment to prevent discouragement among legal professionals. It also highlights the need for state governments to establish clear policies for timely fee payments to advocates.

This is not the first time the Supreme Court has expressed concerns about the delay in fee payments by the State of Uttar Pradesh. In a similar case in September 2023, the court had urged the state government to establish clear policy directions to ensure timely payment of fees to advocates representing the state.

The case serves as a reminder to all state governments to prioritize the prompt payment of fees to advocates, thereby upholding the dignity of the legal profession and ensuring access to justice for all parties involved.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this matter reflects its commitment to safeguarding the interests of legal professionals and maintaining the integrity of the justice system. It also underscores the judiciary’s role in holding state governments accountable for their obligations to advocates representing them.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of THE STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH & ORS. VERSUS GOPAL K. VERMA highlights the importance of ensuring timely payment of fees to advocates by state governments. By reducing the interest payable to a lump sum and urging prompt payment, the court has reiterated the significance of fair compensation for legal professionals and the need for efficient administration of justice.

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