Madras High Court Asserts Reservation Laws Inapplicable to Lawyers Empanelled by Banks

Madhurai Bench of Madras HC Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: February 5, 2024 at 14:15 IST

The Madras High Court recently clarified that lawyers empanelled by banks for legal representation do not hold civil posts, rendering the reservation laws under Article 16 of the Constitution inapplicable to their appointments.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy, overturned a previous single-judge order that had emphasized the right to be considered for appointment as a fundamental right.

The single judge had directed banks to review their empanelment procedures, citing concerns about transparency and adherence to equality clauses in the Constitution.

However, the division bench emphasized the professional nature of the relationship between banks and empanelled lawyers, asserting that it does not resemble a master-servant dynamic.

The Court noted that empanelled lawyers operate under contractual arrangements without coverage by service laws.

While acknowledging the expectations outlined in the single-judge order, the division bench asserted that applying Article 16, which deals with matters of public employment, to empanelment in banks would be a stretch.

The Court stated that banks, in handling public money, have a duty to engage proficient and competent legal representation, emphasizing merit as the primary consideration in empanelment.

The Court appreciated the single judge’s expectations but maintained that issuing directions for reservation in empanelment would be beyond the judicial purview in the absence of constitutional or statutory mandates. The bench urged banks to follow a broad-based procedure for selecting the best and meritorious lawyers for empanelment.

Case Title: Chairman and Managing Director, UCO Bank v K Marimuthu

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