Saturday, 26 January 2019

Whether victim can insist Advocate of his choice to be appointed as special public prosecutor as SC And ST Atrocities Act?

 This Court is unable to concur with the aforesaid opinion. First of
all, Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 does not stipulate that the victim of atrocity
can insist on engagement of a lawyer of his/her own choice.
Undoubtedly, the victim can request that an eminent Senior Advocate be
appointed for conducting the case, however, the decision in this regard
would rest with the concerned District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional
Magistrate. Appointment of Special Counsels to conduct cases on behalf
of the State has monetary implication. In this case, respondent no.3 has
been appointed at a fee of ₹25,000/- per appearance, subject to the
condition that the total fees payable for a month shall not exceed
₹1,40,000/-. It is difficult to accept that the victim can insist that an
advocate of his choice be appointed at the cost of the State Exchequer,
without any application of mind on the part of the concerned District /
Sub Divisional Magistrate. The language of Sub-rule (5) does not
provide that the eminent Senior Advocate to be one of the victim’s
choice.
19. It is also relevant to note that Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 of the said
Rules contemplates engagement of an “eminent Senior Advocate”. In
terms of Section 16 of the Advocates Act, 1961, there are only two
classes of advocates, namely, Senior Advocates and Other Advocates.
Thus, in terms of Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules, only a
Senior Advocate can be appointed for conducting a case. In the present

case, respondent no.3 is not designated as a Senior Advocate. The
contention that the term “Senior Advocate” must be read as a a senior
lawyer is unpersuasive.

24. Undoubtedly, a victim can suggest appointment of a lawyer,
however, it would be necessary for the District Magistrate or Sub-
Divisional Magistrate to satisfy themselves that it is necessary or
appropriate to engage an eminent senior advocate and further that it is
necessary that such an advocate be appointed to prosecute the case.
 IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
 W.P.(C) 729/2018

SUNIL GROVER Vs GOVERNMENT OF NCT OF DELHI

CORAM:
 MR. JUSTICE VIBHU BAKHRU

Dated: 23.01.2019



1. The petitioner has filed the present petition, inter alia, impugning
the appointment of respondent no.3 (Sh Pankaj Kumar), as the Special
Public Prosecutor for Special Court under the Scheduled
Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (hereafter
‘SC/ST Act’), in Sessions case 27462/2016.
2. The petitioner states that he is the landlord of the premises bearing
No. 165, Dr Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi-110009. He states that in the year
2008, he had leased a part of his property to a lady (hereafter ‘Ms K’)
who entered the premises as a tenant and started residing in the property
along with her brothers and sisters. The petitioner claims that there was a

landlord-tenant dispute with regard to use of water, as the same was in
short supply and this had led Ms K to file a false complaint against him
at P.S. Mukherjee Nagar, on 03.05.2008.
3. On the complaint filed by Ms K, an FIR (being FIR No. 156 dated
03.05.2008) has been registered against the petitioner, inter alia, under
the SC/ST Act. Thereafter, charges were framed against the petitioner
and his family members on 08.07.2008, and the case is pending trial
before the concerned court.
4. Initially, the petitioner and his family members were discharged by
the learned Sessions Court, however, on a Criminal Revision petition
preferred by the complainant, the order of discharge was set aside.
Thereafter, the complainant (Ms K) filed a transfer petition seeking
transfer of the case from the concerned Court, to another Court. The said
transfer petitions were rejected by this Court on 29.08.2013. Aggrieved
by the same, the complainant had preferred an appeal being criminal
appeal No.222/2015 before the Supreme Court of India. The same was
allowed by an order dated 04.02.2015, and the trial of the said case was
transferred from the Rohini Sessions Division to the Tis Hazari Sessions
Division.
5. The grievance of the petitioner in the present petition is that the
complainant’s counsel (respondent no.3) has been appointed as a Special
Public Prosecutor to prosecute the case on behalf of the State against the
petitioner. He has pointed out that respondent no.3 has been regularly
appearing on behalf of the complainant in several cases and therefore

prays that the appointment of respondent no.3 as a special prosecutor to
prosecute the case against the petitioner, be set aside. The petitioner
further submits that the appointment of respondent no.3 is not in
accordance with the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 (hereafter the SC/STRules).
6. Respondent nos.1 and 2 have filed a counter affidavit indicating
that respondent no.3 was appointed as a Special Public Prosecutor in
view of the opinion dated 01.07.2016, received from the Department of
Law.
7. A plain reading of the said opinion indicates that the Law
Department had opined that it was not necessary for the respondents to
decide the criteria for appointment of an eminent senior lawyer, as the
same was not relevant because the alleged victim had specifically
requested for appointment of respondent no.3 as an Advocate. Thus,
according to the respondents, once the victim has indicated his or her
choice of an advocate to act a special prosecutor, the concerned District
Magistrate/Sub Divisional Magistrate is not required to apply his mind as
to whether it is necessary to appoint a special prosecutor or whether the
concerned advocate qualifies the criteria of an “eminent Senior
Advocate”.
8. Mr Shrivastava, learned counsel appearing for the respondents
contends that the SC/ST Act is a special act, and, in terms of Rule 4(5) of
the SC/ST Rules, an advocate could be appointed at the choice of the
victim. He further submits that the expression “eminent Senior

Advocate” as used in Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules, should
not be construed as a designated Senior Advocate. but as lawyers who
have an experience exceeding seven years at the bar. He referred to the
decision of the Division Bench of the High Court of Rajasthan in Smt
Satki Devi and Anr. Etc. V. Tikam Singh and Ors.: 2006 Crl. Law
Journal 4721 in support of his contentions.
9. Before proceeding further it would be relevant to refer to Section
15 of the SC/ST Act which reads as under:-
“15. Special Public Prosecutor and Exclusive Public
Prosecutor.—(1) For every Special Court,the State
Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette,
specify a Public Prosecutor or appoint an advocate who
has been in practice as an advocate for not less than
seven years, as a Special Public Prosecutor for the
purpose of conducting cases in that Court.
(2) For every Exclusive Special Court, the State
Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette,
specify an Exclusive Special Public Prosecutor or
appoint an advocate who has been in practice as an
advocate for not less than seven years, as an Exclusive
Special Public Prosecutor for the purpose ofconducting
cases in that Court.]”
10. It is apparent from the above that the State Government is required
to, by a notification in the Official Gazette. appoint public prosecutors
and advocates who have been in practice for not less than seven years as
special public prosecutors for the purposes of conducting cases in the
said Court.
11. Rule 4 of the said Rules provides Supervision of Prosecution and

Submission of report. Sub-rules (1), (1A) and (5) are relevant and are set
out below:-
“4. Supervision of Prosecution and Submission of
Report.—(1) The State Government, on the
recommendation of the District Magistrate, shall prepare
for each District a panel of such number of eminent senior
advocates who have been in practice for not less than
seven years, as it may deem necessary for conducting
cases in the Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts.
(1A) The State Government in consultation with the
Director of Prosecution or in charge of the prosecution,
shall also specify a panel of such number of Public
Prosecutors and Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors, as
it may deem necessary for conducting cases in the Special
Courts and Exclusive Special Courts, as the case may be.
(2)xxxxxxxxxxx
(3)xxxxxxxxxxx
(4)xxxxxxxxxxx
(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1) the
District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate may,
if deem necessary or if so desired by the victims of
atrocity engage an eminent Senior Advocate for
conducting cases in the Special Courts or Exclusive
Special Courts on such payment of fee as he may consider
appropriate.”
12. It is clear from the plain reading of Sub-Rule (1) that State
Governments are required to prepare a panel of “eminent senior
advocates”, who have been practicing for not less than seven years, for
conducting cases in special cases in exclusive special courts.
13. Sub-Rule (1A) of Rule 4 provides for specifying a panel for such

number of Public Prosecutors and Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors
as the State Government may deem necessary, for conducting cases in
Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts.
14. Sub-Rule (5) of Rule 4 contains a non obstante provision, which
enables the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate to
engage an “eminent Senior Advocate” provided that the District
Magistrate or Sub-Division Magistrate deems it necessary to do so, or, if
it is so desired by the victim of atrocity.
15. The contention that the District Magistrate or Sub-Divisional
Magistrate is required to engage an advocate, if so desired by the victim
of atrocity, is clearly not supported by the plain language of Sub-Rule (5)
as there is a provision that mandates that an advocate of choice of the
victim should be engaged by the concerned District Magistrate or the
Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
16. It is also important to note that the Sub-Rule (5) provides for
engagement of an “eminent Senior Advocate”, and not any advocate.
17. Admittedly respondent no. 3 has been appointed to conduct the
case against the petitioner on the basis of a legal opinion from the Law
Department. The relevant extract of the same is set out below:
“Second query is as to what is the criterion to decide about
eminent senior lawyer is not relevant in this case as the
victim has specifically requested to appoint Sh Pankaj
Kumar, Advocate who has been appearing as her advocate
in the Supreme Court. It may kept in mind that the special
Act was enacted to provide relief to the victims of atrocities

and it empowers the victim of atrocity in the matter of trial
of offences covered by the Act to have his case conducted
by an eminent lawyer of his choice so as to ensure fair trial
of his case.”
18. This Court is unable to concur with the aforesaid opinion. First of
all, Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 does not stipulate that the victim of atrocity
can insist on engagement of a lawyer of his/her own choice.
Undoubtedly, the victim can request that an eminent Senior Advocate be
appointed for conducting the case, however, the decision in this regard
would rest with the concerned District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional
Magistrate. Appointment of Special Counsels to conduct cases on behalf
of the State has monetary implication. In this case, respondent no.3 has
been appointed at a fee of ₹25,000/- per appearance, subject to the
condition that the total fees payable for a month shall not exceed
₹1,40,000/-. It is difficult to accept that the victim can insist that an
advocate of his choice be appointed at the cost of the State Exchequer,
without any application of mind on the part of the concerned District /
Sub Divisional Magistrate. The language of Sub-rule (5) does not
provide that the eminent Senior Advocate to be one of the victim’s
choice.
19. It is also relevant to note that Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 of the said
Rules contemplates engagement of an “eminent Senior Advocate”. In
terms of Section 16 of the Advocates Act, 1961, there are only two
classes of advocates, namely, Senior Advocates and Other Advocates.
Thus, in terms of Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules, only a
Senior Advocate can be appointed for conducting a case. In the present

case, respondent no.3 is not designated as a Senior Advocate. The
contention that the term “Senior Advocate” must be read as a a senior
lawyer is unpersuasive.
20. In terms of Section 15 of the SC/ST Act, the State Government is
required to issue a notification, specifying the Public Prosecutor or
appointing an advocate who has been in practice for not less than seven
years as a Special Public Prosecutor for conducting cases in the Special
Court. The SC/ST Rules have been made by the Central Government in
exercise of powers conferred upon it under Section 23 of the SC/ST Act,
which enables the Central Government to make Rules for carrying out
the purposes of the Act. Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4 of the said Rules contains
a provision for preparation of a panel of eminent Senior Advocates for
conducting cases in Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts. Subrule
(1A) provides for constitution of a panel of Public prosecutors and
Exclusive Special Public prosecutors for conducting cases in Special
Courts and Exclusive Special Courts, as the case may be. In terms of
Sub-rule (1B) of Rule 4, both the panels ‒ panel of senior advocates and
panel of public prosecutors and exclusive special public prosecutors ‒ are
required to be notified in the official gazette.
21. A conjoint reading of Sub-rule (1) and (1A) of Rule 4 of the said
Rules clearly indicates that the Central Government has drawn a
distinction between a panel of Senior Advocates and other public
prosecutors. Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 enables the District Magistrate and
the Special Divisional Magistrate to engage an eminent Senior Advocate,
where it is deemed necessary or if desired by the victim of atrocity. It is

relevant to note that Sub-rule (5) contains a non obstante clause and the
Magistrate / Sub Divisional Magistrate is empowered to appoint a Senior
Advocate, notwithstanding anything contained in Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4.
In other words, the Magistrate/Sub Divisional Magistrate is entitled,
where it is deemed necessary, to engage a Senior Advocate,
notwithstanding that his name does not feature in the panel as notified
under Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules. However, the said
provision cannot be read to mean that the Magistrate or Divisional
Magistrate can appoint any advocate of the choice of the victim, without
considering the criteria as set out in Sub-rule(5) of Rule 4. The power
under Sub-rule (5) of Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules must be exercised in
cases where it is necessary and with due application of mind.
22. If the contention of Mr Srivastava that it is necessary for the
Magistrate to appoint an advocate of the victim’s choice whenever a
request is so made, is accepted, it would serve little purpose to maintain a
panel of eminent Senior Advocates or a Panel of Public Prosecutors or
Special Public Prosecutors. This Court is of the view that such a
interpretation militates against the scheme of Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules.
23. The decision in the case of Smt Satki Devi and Anr. Etc. V.
Tikam Singh and Ors. (supra) was rendered in the context of the
controversy whether an advocate appointed in terms of Rule 4(5) of the
SC/ST Rules could act as a Special Public Prosecutor. The respondent in
the said case had contended that only a Special Public Prosecutor
appointed under Section 15 could conduct a case. The issue whether a
District Magistrate could appoint an advocate of the victim’s choice,

without applying its mind to the criteria as specified in Sub-rule (5) of
Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules if requested by the victim, was not the
controversy in that case. It is trite law that the judgment is an authority
for what it decides. The said decision is not an authority for the
proposition that, the District Magistrate is required to ignore the criteria
as set out in Rule 4(5) of the SC/CT Rules if the Advocate appointed is
the one chosen by the alleged victim.
24. Undoubtedly, a victim can suggest appointment of a lawyer,
however, it would be necessary for the District Magistrate or Sub-
Divisional Magistrate to satisfy themselves that it is necessary or
appropriate to engage an eminent senior advocate and further that it is
necessary that such an advocate be appointed to prosecute the case.
25. In view of the above, the present petition is allowed and the
appointment of respondent no.3 as a Special Prosecutor in terms of Subrule
(5) of Rule 4 of the SC/ST Rules is set aside. It is further clarified
that this would not preclude the District Magistrate or the concerned Sub
Divisional Magistrate to apply his mind to the criteria as specified in
Sub-rule(5) of Rule 4 of the SC/CT Rules and appoint an eminent Senior
Advocate, if he considers it necessary to do so.
26. The petition is accordingly disposed of.
VIBHU BAKHRU, J
JANUARY 23, 2019

Print Page

No comments:

Post a comment