L-G declares invalid panel of lawyers appointed by govt

The animosity between the AAP government and Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal’s office flared up yet again on Monday, this time over the Raj Niwas’ directions to declare invalid the panel of over a dozen lawyers appointed by the dispensation to represent it in legal cases.

In a written communication to Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash last week, Mr. Baijal’s Principal Secretary Vijay Kumar cited “material infirmities” and “procedural lapses” regarding sections of the Transaction of Business Rules, 1993, and said that the orders regarding the panel had been issued without obtaining the approval of the L-G, and were hence invalid.

Government sources said that the decision will have implications on the payment due to 13 senior advocates, amounting to “several lakhs”, in lieu for appearing for the Delhi government as well as providing legal counsel between November 29, 2017, and January 18, 2018.

The panel struck down includes legal luminaries such as Indira Jaising, Colin Gonsalves, June Chaudhary, Rebecca John, Anoop Chaudhary, Anand Grover, Sanjay R. Hegde, Meet Malhotra, Sudhanshu Batra, Ashwini Mata, Anil Sapra, Rajiv Bansal and Rajiv Dutta.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the decision was “illegal” and took to Twitter: “LG does not have the power to reject any govt proposal. Under constitution, LG can only express his difference of opinion. This rejection is completely illegal, unconstitutional and without jurisdiction. LG shud follow constitution [sic]”.

The AAP alleged that the development was in line with the L-G’s efforts to destabilise the government.

Sources in the bureaucracy, however, said the case in point was illustrative of the Delhi Law Department having, ironically, “broken the law”. “These [orders] have also not been issued in the manner specified under Section 44 (2) GNCTD Act and have not been authenticated in the manner provided under Section 44 (3) of the said Act...,” the letter stated.

Following the direction by the L-G’s office, Mr. Prakash wrote to principal secretaries and secretaries of government departments stating: “All concerned may kindly note that the said orders [regarding empanelment of lawyers] of November 29, 2017, and January 18, 2018, have not been validly issued in view of the material infirmities...,” the letter stated.

It further added that a copy of the same communication be routed to the Pay & Accounts Officers thorough the Finance Department for “further appropriate action as per rules.”

Government sources claimed that action could be taken against a senior DANICS officer under whose signature the order announcing the appointment of the panel was forwarded.

The matter may also “be sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is the cadre controlling authority of DANICS officers.”

‘Politically motivated’

“This clearly appears to be politically motivated. I have appeared for the CM in defamation cases and AAP MLAs in their recent case against Mr. Prakash and that may be why this decision has been taken. It makes no difference to me or my practice,” Ms. John told The Hindu.

Another senior advocate whose name figured in the list said that the issue was between the government and the L-G, “There is nothing for me to say as of now.”

Describing as a trend of Constitutional overreach, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said the same was visible in “other states such as Puducherry, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and, recently, in Karnataka.”

“The intent and political motivation are clear; the LG in Delhi is doing the same thing, viz. holding payments, for lawyers representing the Delhi government against cases filed by IAS officers,” Mr. Bharadwaj alleged.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 3:47:38 PM |

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