Government Law Officers; Bineesh K.C. Vs. State [Kerala High Court, 07-10-2016]

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 – Section 24 – Government Law Officers (Appointment and Conditions of Service) and Conduct of Cases Rules, 1978 (Kerala) – Rules 7, 8 and 17 – In the matter of appointment as Public Prosecutors / Additional Public Prosecutors or in composite appointments as District Government Pleaders / Public Prosecutors, Additional District Government Pleaders / Additional Public Prosecutors, in addition to the procedure prescribed in Rule 8(2) of the 1978 Rules, the procedure for empanellment and consultation as provided in Section 24 Cr.P.C. will also be followed before appointments are made.


IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

THOTTATHIL B.RADHAKRISHNAN & ANU SIVARAMAN, JJ.

W.P.(C).Nos.34210 of 2015,22826,24662, 23061,23934,24026 & 24687 of 2016

Dated this the 7th day of October, 2016

PETITIONER(S)

1. BINEESH K.C., ADVOCATE, KOCHI, 2. IBRAHIM P.A., ADVOCATE, NORTH PARAVUR, 3. VINOD KUMAR M.M., ADVOCATE, KANNUR

BY ADVS.SRI.ABRAHAM VAKKANAL (SR.) SRI.PAUL ABRAHAM VAKKANAL SRI.DIJO SEBASTIAN SMT.VINEETHA SUSAN THOMAS SRI.J.VISHNU DEVARAJ

RESPONDENT(S)

1. STATE OF KERALA, REPRESENTED BY THE CHIEF SECRETARY, GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT, SECRETARIAT, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM-695 001.

2. THE SECRETARY, LAW DEPARTMENT, GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM-695 001.

3. A.K.SATHEESH, ADDITIONAL GOVERNMENT PLEADER & PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, ADDITIONAL DISTRICT & SESSIONS COURT-IV, PATHANAMTHITTA DISTRICT-689

4. K.S.SHAJAHAN, ADDITIONAL GOVERNMENT PLEADER & PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, ADDITIONAL DISTRICT & SESSIONS COURT-II, ALAPPUZHA-689 645.

5. N.ANILKUMAR, ADDITIONAL GOVERNMENT PLEADER & PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, ADDITIONAL DISTRICT & SESSIONS COURT-II, PATHANAMTHITTA DISTRICT-689 645.

6. P.A.HANSALAH MOHAMMED, ADDITIONAL GOVERNMENT PLEADER AND PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, ADDITIONAL DISTRICT & SESSIONS COURT-III, PATHANAMTHITTA-689 645.

7. P.ANUPAMAN, DISTRICT GOVERNMENT PLEADER & PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, DISTRICT & SESSIONS COURT, WAYANAD, KALPETTA-673 121.

8. THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA, REPRESENTED BY THE REGISTRAR GENERAL, HIGH COURT BUILDING, ERNAKULAM, PIN – 682 031.

9. S. SURESH KUMAR,THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

R1 & R2 BY ADVOCATE GENERAL SRI.C.P.SUDHAKARA PRASAD GOVERNMENT PLEADER SRI.MANOJ KUMAR R3 & R5 BY ADVS. SRI.R.BINDU (SASTHAMANGALAM) SRI.SANTHOSH P.ABRAHAM R4 BY ADVS. SRI.S.SREEKUMAR (SR.) SRI.P.MARTIN JOSE SRI.THOMAS P.KURUVILLA SRI.P.PRIJITH R6 BY ADV. SRI.S.SHANAVAS KHAN R7 BY ADVS. SRI.MANOJ RAMASWAMY SRI.V.JOHN SEBASTIAN RALPH SRI.K.J.JOSEPH (ERNAKULAM) R8 BY ADV. SRI.ELVIN PETER P.J. R9 BY ADV. SRI.K.M.SATHYANATHA MENON

JUDGMENT

# Anu Sivaraman, J.

1. The common question raised in these writ petitions is with regard to the procedure to be followed in the matter of appointment; extension of term and termination of appointment of District Government Pleaders and Public Prosecutors in various District and Sessions Courts as well as Additional Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors in Additional District Courts and Sub Courts and Tribunals in the State.

2. W.P.(C).No.34210 of 2015 is filed by three persons who claim to be practicing advocates eligible for appointment as District Government Pleaders and Public Prosecutors. They seek an order quashing Exhibits P2 to P5 and also all appointments of Public Prosecutors/District Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors/Additional Government Pleaders made after 26.04.2012, i.e., the date of Exhibit P1, without effective consultation with the Sessions Judge, as contemplated in Section 24 Cr.P.C and as interpreted by judgments of this Court and the Apex Court. There is a further relief sought to declare that the respective Sessions Judges have the right to independently assess the eligibility of advocates for inclusion in the panel for appointment as Public Prosecutors/Government Pleaders, dehors the list sent to him by the District Magistrate, and further to add eligible advocates of his choice to such panel or to remove undesirable persons from the panel. W.P.(C).No.22826 of 2016 is filed by three persons, who claim to be practicing advocates, eligible for appointment as District Government Pleaders and Public Prosecutors seeking directions to the State to immediately appoint a Selection/Search Committee to assess the merit and ability of legal practitioners for appointment as District Government Pleaders/Additional Government Pleaders and Public Prosecutors/Additional Public Prosecutors and also to consider the creation of permanent cadre of Law Officers in the district centres. W.P.(C).No.24026 of 2016 is filed by a person claiming to be a practicing lawyer; as a Public Interest Litigation; seeking directions to the Government to follow the guidelines laid down by the Apex Court in the decision reported in

# State of Punjab & Another v. Brijeshwar Singh Chapal and Another, AIR 2016 SC 1629

while making selection and appointment of Law Officers in the High Court and District and Sessions Courts. W.P.(C).No.23934 of 2016 is filed by a person claiming to be a practicing lawyer of Thodupuzha, pleading that he is eligible for appointment as Additional District Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor. He challenges Exhibit P1 in that writ petition, which is a notice dated 04.01.2016. He impeaches that notice on the ground that the District and Sessions Judge is incompetent to call for applications from Advocates for empanellment.

3. W.P.(C).Nos.22826 of 2016, 24662 of 2016, 23061 of 2016 and 24687 of 2016 are filed by persons, who are functioning as District Government Pleaders/Public Prosecutors, Additional District Government Pleaders/ Additional Public Prosecutors in various centres, challenging the notices issued by the respective District Collectors calling for applications for empanellment of Advocates for the purpose of appointment as Government Law Officers. They contend that they had either been appointed for a specified term or their appointments had been subsequently renewed for fixed terms. The procedure now initiated for fresh appointment would invariably result in the premature termination of their term of appointments, it is contended.

4. Heard learned Senior Advocate Sri.Abraham Vakkanal, Adv. Sri.Sathyanatha Menon, Adv.Sri.Sreekumar G.Chelur, Adv.Sri.C.A.Anoop and Adv.Sri.S.M.Prasanth, who are appearing for the petitioners and Sri. C.P.Sudhakara Prasad, learned Advocate General, Senior Advocate Sri.S.Sreekumar, Adv.Sri.Bindu Sasthamangalam, Adv.Sri.John S.Ralph, Adv.Sri.Shanavas Khan who are appearing for the contesting respondents and Adv.Sri.Elvin Peter, who is appearing for the 8th respondent in W.P.(C) No.34210/2015.

5. The contention of the writ petitioners is based broadly on

# Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

(hereinafter referred to as “the Cr.P.C” for short) and the applicability of

# Rules 7, 8 and 17 of the Kerala Government Law Officers (Appointment and Conditions of Service) and Conduct of Cases Rules, 1978

(hereinafter referred to as “the 1978 Rules” for short) as also the decisions of this Court in

# Omanakuttan Nair and others v. State of Kerala, 2003 (1) KLT 226

(appeal against which has been dismissed by the Apex Court as per the judgment which is Ext.P1 in W.P.(C).No.34210 of 2015),

# Mohammed Ashraff v. State of Kerala, 1991 (2) KLT 818

as well as the decisions of the Apex Court in

# Kumary Shrilekha Vidyarthi & others v. State of UP, AIR 1991 SC 537

# State of Punjab and another v. Brijeshwar Singh Chahal and another, (2016) 6 SCC 1

and

# State of Uttar Pradesh and others v. Ajay Kumar Sharma and another, (2014) 3 SCC 568

6. The learned Advocate General on the other hand would contend that all Government Law officers, including Public Prosecutors/Additional Public Prosecutors appointed in terms of Section 24 of the Cr.P.C, come within the purview of the 1978 Rules and would therefore be governed by Rule 17 thereof, which provides for termination of their appointment at any time before the expiry of the term of appointment without assigning any reason subject to one month’s notice or payment of one month’s salary in lieu of such notice. The Government has the power to terminate the appointment at any time, it is argued. The learned Advocate General relies on the decisions of the Apex Court reported in

# State of UP and another v. Johri Mal, (2004) 4 SCC 714

# State of U.P v. Rakesh Kumar Keshari and another, (2011) 5 SCC 341

and of this Court in

# Francis Jude Netto v. State of Kerala, 2007 (4) KLT 210

and judgments of this Court in W.A.No.458 of 2007 and WA No.1364 of 2004 and the recent decision of another Division Bench of this Court in O.P.(KAT) No.90 of 2016.

7. I have considered the contentions in detail. The primary argument of the learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioners in W.P.(C).No.34210 of 2015 is that the process of consultation with the Sessions Judge prescribed in subsection 4 of Section 24 is an “effective and meaningful consultation” as laid down in Omanakuttan Nair (supra) which has been affirmed by the Apex Court. It is, therefore, argued that insofar as the impeached action is in derogation of the said procedure, the same cannot stand in law.

8. I am of the view that the contentions raised in these batch of writ petitions are substantially covered by the judgment dated 27.07.2016 of a Bench of this Court in O.P.(KAT) No.90 of 2016. However, the learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioners in W.P.(C).No.34210 of 2015 would submit that the question of applicability of Rule 17 of the 1978 Rules to the termination of appointment of Public Prosecutors has not been considered in the said judgment. It is further argued that the judgment in the OP(KAT) does not address the specific contention with regard to the applicability of Rule 8 of the 1978 Rules to the appointment of Public Prosecutors/Additional Public Prosecutors in terms of Section 24 Cr.P.C.

9. The learned counsel for those writ petitioners, who are presently working as Additional Government Pleaders, Public Prosecutors, Additional Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors, argued that Rule 17 can have no application in the case of Public Prosecutors/Additional Public Prosecutors, since they are outside the purview of the 1978 Rules. The learned senior counsel appearing for the 4th respondent in W.P.(C).No.34210 of 2015 argued that persons appointed as District Government Pleaders/Public Prosecutors, Additional Government Pleaders/Additional Public Prosecutors after complying with the procedure prescribed in Section 24 Cr.P.C., and the extension of their term being in compliance with such procedure, are entitled to complete the term of their appointment/re-appointment.

10. Rule 2 of the 1978 Rules is the definition clause.

# Rule 2(b) defines Government Law officer as:-

“2(b) Government Law Officer” means a person appointed by the Government to conduct Government cases in any Court or tribunal in the State or in the Supreme Court and includes,-

# (i) State Attorney in the High Court;

# (ii) Pleader, appointed to do Government work in a Munsiff’s Court

# (iii) Special Government Pleader

# (iv) Special Public Prosecutor

# (v) Government Pleader for Arbitration proceedings and

# (vi) Standing Counsel for the State in the Supreme Court.

# (vii) Government Pleader appointed under rule IIA”

11. The learned Advocate General drew my attention to Rule 7 of the said Rules which reads as follows:-

# 7. Set up in District Court Centres, Additional District Court Centres and Sub Court Centres

(1) There shall be one District Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor at each District Court Centre. There may also be such number of Additional Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors as may be considered necessary by the Government at each District Court Centre, Additional District Court Centre and Sub Court Centre.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1), the Government may, if deemed necessary at any time, separate the offices of Government Pleaders and Public Prosecutors at any Court Centre and make separate appointments accordingly.”

12. The method of appointment of Government Law Officers is provided in Rule 8 of the 1978 Rules which reads as follows:-

# 8. Method of appointment of Government Law Officers at District Court, Additional District Court and Sub Court Centres

(1) Government Law Officer at a District Court Centre, Additional District Court Centre or Sub Court Centre shall be appointed by the Government from a panel of names of Advocates furnished by the District Collector concerned: Provided that the Government shall try to give adequate representation to members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Communities in the matter of appointment of Government Law Officers.

(2) For preparing the panel, the District Collector shall follow the following procedure, namely:-

(a) A list of advocates from the roll of advocates of the Bar Council of Kerala having at least seven years of practice in the Bar and who, having regard to their qualification, experience, integrity, reliability, reputation and character and antecedents, are, in the opinion of the District Collector, fit to be appointed as a Government Law Officer shall be prepared and sent to the concerned District and Sessions Judge for consultation. The District and Sessions Judge shall return the list with his remarks within ten clear days from the date of receipt of the same by him: Provided that in preparing the list it shall not be necessary to advertise the vacancies or invite applications for the appointment.

(b) After the expiry of the time limit mentioned in Clause (a) for return of the list from the District and Sessions Judge the District Collector shall prepare the panel of advocates based on the list forwarded by him to the District and Sessions Judge under the said clause.

(c) In preparing the panel, the District Collector shall not include the name of any Advocate whose name was not included in the list prepared by him under clause(a) or whose name was specifically disapproved by the District and Sessions Judge on specific grounds.

(d) The character and antecedents of all persons included in the panel shall be got verified through the concerned Superintendent of Police: Provided that if members of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe Communities are qualified to be appointed as Law Officer, the panel shall contain the name of one member from such community.”

13. A reading of the definition clause in Rule 2(b) of the 1978 Rules would show that “all persons appointed by the Government to conduct Government cases” would be ‘Government Law Officers’. The inclusive clause enumerating the categories cannot exclude Law Officers who would be covered by the definition. The 1978 Rules have been understood as being subservient to the provisions contained in Section 24 Cr.P.C as far as appointment of Public Prosecutors/ Additional Public Prosecutors are concerned. However, in matters where the Cr.P.C is silent, evidently the rules which are purportedly issued in exercise of powers under Section 2 (1) of the Kerala Public Services Act would have application. In the above view of the matter, since Public Prosecutors are also Government Law Officers in terms of Rules 2(b) and 7 of the 1978 Rules and since no procedure regarding the termination of appointment is prescribed in the Cr.P.C, I am of the opinion that Rule 17 of the 1978 Rules would apply in the matter of termination of appointment of Public Prosecutors/Additional Public Prosecutors as well.

14. As regards the contentions in WP(C) W.P.(C).No.24026 of 2016, decision of the Apex Court in Brijeshwar Singh Chapal‘s case (supra) was rendered in totally different circumstances. The Apex Court had specifically taken note of the fact that there were no rules or procedure prescribed in the State of Punjab for appointment of Government Pleaders and Public Prosecutors. It was in the above circumstances that detailed procedure was prescribed by the Apex Court for such appointment. In the light of the decision in Omanakuttan Nair‘s case (supra) I am of the view that the appointment of all Government Law Officers have to be carried out in strict conformity with Rule 8 of the 1978 Rules. When the appointment is as a Public Prosecutor/Additional Public Prosecutor or a composite one, i.e., as District Government Pleader/Public Prosecutor or Assistant Public Prosecutor/Additional Public Prosecutor, the procedure as envisaged in Section 24 Cr.P.C. as explained by this Court in Omanakuttan Nair‘s case (supra) is also to be adhered to. A meaningful consultation with the District Judge and the inclusion in the panel of any name which such District Judge may suggest, subject to the consent of the concerned counsel, is necessary for a proper implementation of the selection procedure.

15. I am in complete agreement with the views expressed in the judgment of this Court in OP(KAT) No.90 of 2016 wherein it has been held, after examining the Scheme of the 1978 Rules as well as Section 24 Cr.P.C that persons initially appointed after complying with the due procedure under Section 24 Cr.P.C cannot claim any right of re-appointment under Rule 9 of the 1978 Rules. Their re-appointment without preparing a panel as prescribed in Section 24 Cr.P.C cannot confer on them any right to continue till the expiry of the term of such re-appointment. That apart, I am of the view that since Public Prosecutors/Additional Public Prosecutors are also Government Law Officers to whom the 1978 Rules apply, they cannot raise a claim for continuance even within the term of appointment, since they are governed by Rule 17 of the 1978 Rules.

# Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan, J.

16. I have studied the opinion penned by learned sister Justice Anu Sivaraman and I fully concur with the reasons and the conclusions arrived at. I add certain aspects.

17. The consultative process under Section 24 Cr.P.C. is one where there must be equal participation by the District Magistrate and the Sessions Judge in such process. This can be best achieved only if both those authorities bestow anxious consideration to all relevant aspects as regards each candidate about whom such deliberation is made. The cream of the decisions referred to above, in particular, Omanakuttan Nair (supra) and Kumary Shrilekha Vidyarthi (supra) are clear indicators to the requirement of equal and effective participation by the District Magistrate and the Sessions Judge in the process of consultation. We have perused the file maintained by the High Court on the administrative side when inputs were called for from the Sessions Judges of the different Sessions Divisions to present the High Court’s version in answer to these writ petitions. Though the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the High Court states that there was no effective consultation, what we see from the replies from the different Hon’ble Sessions Judges is that there could have been better endeavour from the part of those Officers to have a more vibrant consultation to generate complete satisfaction of the consultant Sessions Judge concerned rather than leave it at what has happened and merely report to the High Court, in answer to the query by the Registry, that there was no effective consultation. This is a matter that can be ensured only by that authority. The insistence of a consultant that the consultative process should be of such nature which should lead to complete satisfaction of that authority as to the relevant aspects of the matter is of prime importance. Therefore, it is worthwhile for the District Magistrate and the Sessions Judge concerned to consider sitting across the table and discussing various aspects in relation to a candidate concerned after the names of the probable candidates are provided by the District Magistrate to the Sessions Judge, which event should necessarily take place at a fair and reasonable earlier point of time. It would also be open to the Sessions Judge to suggest the name of any eminently appropriate candidate who, in his reckoning, is worthy of consideration to be a Public Prosecutor. This could be done reciprocating to the process initiated by the District Magistrate for the consultation. A meaningful and healthy consultative process, having regard to the best interest of the criminal justice delivery system and the objects sought to be achieved by Section 24, would surely be best achieved if this modality is effectuated.

18. With the aforesaid addition of my views, I completely agree with the conclusions arrived at by my learned sister and the decision that would be rendered by the Bench.

# Order of the Bench

In the above view of the matter,

i. W.P.(C).No.34210 of 2015 is ordered directing that in the matter of appointment as Public Prosecutors/Additional Public Prosecutors or in composite appointments as District Government Pleaders/Public Prosecutors, Additional District Government Pleaders/Additional Public Prosecutors, in addition to the procedure prescribed in Rule 8(2) of the 1978 Rules, the procedure for empanellment and consultation as provided in Section 24 Cr.P.C, as explained by this Court in Omanakuttan Nair‘s case (supra) will also be followed before appointments are made.

ii. W.P.(C).Nos.22826, 24662, 23061, 23934, 24026 & 24687 of 2016 are dismissed.

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