By Devil’s Advocate
There has been a serious concern raised about the manner in which “top notch” advocates bill their clients. Right from accommodation, breakfast, travel and in many a case, laundry charges are being passed on to the client.
Take for instance the Cauvery water’s dispute which unfortunately did not go the way Karnataka wanted it to. The bills produced by the team of advocates headed by senior counsel Fali S Nariman are quite shameful and raises a very important question. “Was it worth it?”
Churumuri.com had put up an interesting piece on the amount charged by the advocates for the fighting the Cauvery Water’s dispute. Published below is the article.
Between 1990-91 and 2007, the State spent a grand total of Rs 22.10 crore on the 18 lawyers who represented it at the apex court. That’s roughly Rs 1.22 crore per black coat.
Documents procured by a Dharwad citizen, Krishna Joshi, using the provisions of the Right to Information, the story shows that, on the other hand, the State spent Rs 1.34 crore on the 10 advocates-general in the same 16-year period.
Anil B. Divan took home the lion’s share of the Rs 22 crore, with Rs 9.66 crore, followed by S.S. Javali (Rs 3.77 crore) and Mohan V. Kataraki (Rs 2.75 crore). Fali S. Nariman who has represented the State from very nearly the beginning of the dispute took Rs 2.08 crore.
The most inexpensive lawyer was Ashok Mathur whose services cost the State Rs 3,000.
The highest expense incurred by the State in the 16-year saga was in 2005-06 when it filed a review petition before the Cauvery Tribunal. The lawyers’ fees in that financial year was a grand total of Rs 5.19 crore.
Kataraki visited Bangalore 193 times to discuss the case with state officials, Javali 158 times, Shambhu Prasad Singh 138 times, Divan 46 times, Syed Naqvi 26 times, Nariman 19 times, Brijesh Kalappa 18 times and Ranveer Singh 14 times.
Let us not blame the lawyers alone for this. When someone is ready to pay, why not ask? Is it not the duty of the state government to strike a balance somewhere when it comes to making payments? Mr. Nariman may be the best in the business, but is he irreplaceable? The need of the hour was dedication and a larger team of advocates from Karnataka who could understand the seriousness of the issue and fight the case with a great amount of passion.
In a legal battle one has to win and one has to lose. The question is whether such a payment was justified?
As was pointed out some of these lawyers have made numerous trips to Bangalore. At Bangalore the lawyers were put up at the Windsor Manor and all the conferences with various officials were held at the very same hotel.
So the irony here is that the Rs. 22.10 crore mentioned is just the lawyers’ fee. If one takes into account all the other expenditure involved, the expenses incurred is a shocking Rs 34 crore. This would include charges incurred for conferences at both New Delhi and Bangalore. The trips made by the officials and also the Advocate General would also form part of this madness.
Now for the real shocker. The expenditure in the Cauvery Water’s dispute has not ended. After the verdict of the tribunal, another series of conferences were held both in Delhi and Bangalore. The last conference held in Bangalore in the month of May 2007 lasted 6 days at Windsor Manor. And guess what the conclusion was at the end of the conference. “To oppose Tamil Nadu in the Supreme Court and ask for a larger share of water.” Like none of us knew that this is what was supposed to be done.
Guess it is time to ponder over this issue and law brought in to curb lawyers from charging such unimaginable amounts. Now is this possible considering the fact that 99 per cent of the judges were lawyers prior to their elevation.