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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Punjab govt runs into fresh row over arm-twisting by AAP bosses in Delhi

The sudden resignation of Anmol Rattan Singh Sidhu as Advocate General (AG) of the Punjab government and the appointing of a controversial lawyer Vinodh Ghai as the new AG has landed the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government in a major controversy.

Sources close to Sidhu reveal that the former AG was being pressured to appoint a majority of Additional Advocate Generals (AAGs), Deputy Advocate Generals (DAGs), and Assistant Advocate Generals (ADAGs) as per the recommendations of MP Raghav Chadha who is also the chairman of the advisory committee formed to help Chief Minister Mann run the government on day-to-day basis. There is a team of about 150 lawyers with these designations who represent the state government in the Punjab and Haryana High Court besides appearing in the Supreme Court.

Sidhu is learned to have been insisting that he should be allowed to recruit lawyers in his team as per merit and his choice to produce desired results. Though he was amenable to adjusting some candidates recommended by Chadda at the instance of AAP’s Delhi headquarters. As the two could not come to an agreement on the issue, Sidhu decided to quit.

However, AAP sympathisers in the legal fraternity accuse former AG Sidhu of hobnobbing with his close friends from the Congress and trying to recruit lawyers as per their liking at the cost of the AAP government’s list.

Although Sidhu resigned on July 19 citing personal reasons, the government kept the development under wraps and accepted his resignation on July 26 and appointed Ghai as the new AG.

What has added to the controversy is the selection of Ghai as the new AG, as he is the counsel of several tainted ministers of the erstwhile Congress regime and has been taking a position in the High Court against the present Punjab government.

It is being argued in legal circles that appointing an AG who has been assisting those who are now in the dock after the AAP formed the government may not prove to be a wise decision. It is understood that after being appointed as AG, Ghai would not be able to appear personally in all the mentioned cases but will he and his team of lawyers be able to be unbiased in their arguments before judges to serve the interests of the state after once having charged huge fees from his private clients?

Ghai is the counsel for former food and supplies minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, seeking anticipatory bail. Ashu has been accused in an FIR of the embezzlement of Rs 20,000 crore. The Vigilance Bureau is in hot pursuit to arrest him under the Punjab government’s policy of zero tolerance toward corruption.

He is also the counsel for former health and medical education minister O.P. Soni accused of purchasing hand sanitisers during the coronavirus pandemic at exorbitant rates putting the exchequer at a loss of several thousand crores of rupees. An inquiry ordered by the AAP government is on and the Vigilance Bureau is looking into it. Soni too has sought anticipatory bail from the High Court.

Next comes the name of Sangat Singh Gilzian, who remained forest minister for 3 months in the Congress’ Charanjit Singh Channi government. Gilzian is accused of accepting a bribe to the tune of Rs 8 crore in a tree plantation drive. New AG being Gilzian’s counsel argued against the state and managed to get his client anticipatory bail.

Ghai also argued against the state for being counsel of health minister Vijay Singla who was sacked from the Mann cabinet and arrested for demanding a 2 per cent commission from the contractors engaged in constructing buildings for government hospitals and dispensaries.

Ghai contested against the state government in the infamous Bargari sacrilege case as counsel for the jailed Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Raheem Singh.

He is also the counsel for Sumedh Singh Saini, the former controversial DGP who has been accused of ordering firing on the unarmed protesters at Behbal Kalan killing two men.

(The content is being carried by IANS under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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