V.S. Palaniappan

In protest against a GO on professional fee

Coimbatore: The State brief defence advocates in the Coimbatore serial blasts case are planning to boycott the Special Court for Bomb Blast Cases on July 20 and 27 to protest against a government order on advocates fee.

The issue cropped up when the Judge of the Special Court, K. Uthirapathy, posted the hearing in the Criminal Miscellaneous Petitions to July 20 and a meeting to July 27 to discuss the modalities for commencing the pronouncement of verdict on August 1.

Disposing of writ petitions on the fixation of fee for counsel, the First Division Bench of the Madras High Court in December 2001 had ordered payment of Rs. 2,500 to outstation advocates and Rs. 1,500 for those hailing from Coimbatore for hearings lasting for more than six hours, and 50 per cent of it for the hearings lasting less than three hours. The State Government issued an order on December 24, 2001 and the fee was being paid accordingly for the last five years.

Revised fee

But an order issued on April 19, 2007 revised the fee for the state brief advocates besides fixing slabs for junior advocates and associate advocates (appearing before the court either on behalf of their seniors or for assisting them). It classified the State brief defence lawyers on the basis of number of years of practice.

The GO reducing the fee drastically was given retrospective effect from June 3, 2003, the lawyers contended. They also objected to a notice dated June 14, 2007 served on them by the Special Court for Bomb Blast Cases asking them to return the excess fee received till date. Defence lawyers pointed out that professional fee for advocates appearing for the defence as State brief counsel were fixed by the First Division Bench of the Madras High Court. Any alteration or modification would amount to interfering with judicial process besides disobeying the High Court order. A contempt petition is being initiated by three advocates against the Registrar General, Sessions Judge of the Bomb Blast Court and the Home Secretary. Senior defence lawyer P. Thirumalairajan said to demand settlement of arrears and withdrawal of the GO, the lawyers would boycott the special court on the two crucial days besides staging dharna.