The decision was taken in view of the strain caused by COVID-19 on the legal profession
Taking into consideration the enormous strain that COVID-19 has taken on the legal profession with many lawyers suffering without an income and some having left the profession at least temporarily, the State government has relaxed the rules which give weightage to the number of court appearances and the gross income earned in last three years before appointing advocates to represent the State, before the Madras High Court and its Bench in Madurai.
A Government Order (GO) issued by the Public (Law Officers) Department on Friday amended the Law Officers of High Court of Madras and its Bench at Madurai (Appointment) Rules of 2017. Pursuant to the amendment, applicants to the post of law officers need not submit either the list of cases in which they had appeared in the last seven years or the income tax returns filed by them in the last three years to prove their income from the profession.
The GO also made clear that it would be sufficient if the applicants submit certificates either from recognised Bar associations in the High Court or from a senior lawyer with 25 years of standing in the Bar to prove that they meet the minimum professional experience required for the post concerned. It further stated that the amendments were being made following three letters written by Advocate General (A-G) R. Shunmugasundaram between June 18 and July 7.
When contacted, the A-G said the pandemic had a devastating effect on the legal profession with many advocates not having any brief and consequent income to sustain themselves. Some were not even in a position to pay subscriptions to the Bar associations to which they were attached. While young lawyers were suffering due to restricted functioning of courts, some of the aged lawyers could not get accustomed to technology to attend the virtual hearings.
“In my estimate, at least 30% of young lawyers practising in the Madras High Court have left Chennai and gone to their native places at least temporarily. Under such circumstances, it would be unfair to expect them to have conducted a particular number of cases and to have earned good amount of income from the profession in the last three years to be eligible to apply for law officer posts. Therefore, we thought it fit to relax the norms,” he said.
Nevertheless, the minimum experience required to be appointed to various posts such as Government Advocate, Additional Government Pleader, Special Government Pleader and so on remain unaltered and that experience could be proved by submitting certificates from Bar associations and senior lawyers, the A-G added.
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