The post of an advocate general is one of the most important constitutional offices of the state government and cannot be allowed to lie vacant, Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt told the Bombay high court, while asking it to direction the Maharashtra government to appoint a full-fledged advocate general for the state.
In a public interest litigation filed through his advocate Ashish Mehta, Dutt said the state should stop the practice of giving charge of the constitutional post to other functionaries.
The Maharashtra government has been functioning without a full-fledged advocate general for the past nine months.
Dutt told the court the constitution casts an obligation on the governor to appoint an advocate general, the advocate general acts for the benefit of the public and the Constitution imposes several functions on the highest law officer of the state.
These reasons mean such a post cannot be allowed to remain vacant for an inordinately long period.
The failure of the state government to appoint a full-fledged advocate general not only shows its lethargic approach, but also a dereliction of constitutional duty.
“The state cannot operate without appointing an advocate general and in fact, the post is an essential part of the Government,” his PIL states.
“Thus, as long as the post lies vacant, the government cannot be said to have been properly formed,” it adds. He further contended any other lawyer appointed by the state is not authorised to carry out constitutional and statutory functions of the advocate general.
The BJP-Shiv Sena government had initially appointed Sunil Manohar as advocate general, but he resigned in less than six months of his appointment.
Senior advocate Shrihari Aney succeeded him, but he too resigned in March 2016, after controversy over his personal views about a separate Vidarbha.
After Aney’s resignation, the government handed over charge of the post to Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, and later to Rohit Deo, who has been originally appointed as Associate Advocate General.
Dutt clarified he has no objections to Deo’s capability, but to the concept of an acting advocate general, which he said is “alien to the Constitution of India”.