State of Punjab & Anr. vs Brijeshwar Singh Chahal
State of Punjab & Anr. vs Brijeshwar Singh Chahal - Supreme Court Important Judgment 2016 -
On 30th March, 2016, in the case of State of Punjab & Anr. vs Brijeshwar Singh Chahal & Anr. [Civil Appeal No.3194 of 2016], while holding that appointment of Law Officers by the State Governments need to be made on a fair, reasonable, nondiscriminatory and objective basis, the following propositions were summed up by the Supreme Court as legally unexceptionable:
“(i) The Government and so also all public bodies are trustees of the power vested in them.
(ii) Discharge of the trust reposed in them in the best possible manner is their primary duty.
(iii) The power to engage, employ or recruit servants, agents, advisors and representatives must like any other power be exercised in a fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory and objective manner.
(iv) The duty to act in a fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory and objective manner is a facet of the Rule of Law in a constitutional democracy like ours.
(v) An action that is arbitrary has no place in a polity governed by Rule of Law apart from being offensive to the equality clause guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
(vi) Appointment of Government counsel at the district level and equally so at the High Court level, is not just a professional engagement, but such appointments have a “public element” attached to them.
(vii) Appointment of Government Counsel must like the discharge of any other function by the Government and public bodies, be only in public interest unaffected by any political or other extraneous considerations.
(viii) The government and public bodies are under an obligation to engage the most competent of the lawyers to represent them in the Courts for it is only when those appointed are professionally competent that public interest can be protected in the Courts.
(ix) The Government and public bodies are free to choose the method for selecting the best lawyers but any such selection and appointment process must demonstrate that a search for the meritorious was undertaken and that the process was unaffected by any extraneous considerations.
(x) No lawyer has a right to be appointed as a State/Government counsel or as Public Prosecutor at any level, nor is there any vested right to claim an extension in the term for which he/she is initially appointed. But all such candidates can offer themselves for appointment, re-appointment or extension in which event their claims can and ought to be considered on their merit, uninfluenced by any political or other extraneous considerations.
(xi) Appointments made in an arbitrary fashion, without any transparent method of selection or for political considerations will be amenable to judicial review and liable to be quashed.
(xii) Judicial review of any such appointments will, however, be limited to examining whether the process is affected by any illegality, irregularity or perversity/irrationality. The Court exercising the power of judicial review will not sit in appeal to reassess the merit of the candidates, so long as the method of appointment adopted by the competent authority does not suffer from any infirmity.”