The state government on Friday told the Bombay high court that it will appoint an advocate general (AG) by December 30.
The acting advocate general Rohit Deo made this statement in compliance with a previous high court order directing the state to give a deadline for filling the constitutional post that has been lying vacant for more than eight months.
The last advocate general Shreehari Aney resigned from the post in March 2016 and since then advocate Rohit Deo has been serving as the acting AG.
A division bench led by Justice AS Oka had earlier directed the state government to file an affidavit stating by when will it make the appointment to the important constitutional post.
The bench has been hearing a plea filed by Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt seeking directions for the state to appoint a new AG. The plea has also sought an interim order to the state to cancel the appointment of the acting AG claiming that “the Constitution has no provision for such a post”.
Dutt, in his plea, said, “An AG is required to part take in various statutory duties and constitutional functions that cannot be performed by anyone else appointed as a stop-gap arrangement, especially for such a long period.”
On December 8 this year, following the court’s query, the state had submitted an affidavit stating that the appointed would be made “soon”. Neeraj Dhote, legal advisor and joint secretary, law and judiciary department, had filed the affidavit saying, “The state would appoint the AG in accordance with the provisions contained in Article 165 of the Constitution of India, by the end of December 2016.”
The bench, however, had refused to accept the submission and had instead asked the state to mention the exact date by which the appointment would be made. It had said that it was “high time that the government appointed a new Advocate General to represent the state since many constitutional and statutory functions (of the government) were suffering due to the non-appointment” and that the same was “affecting the cause of justice as well as the public.”
On Friday, the bench accepted the state’s submission but kept the matter pending to ensure compliance.
Post has seen 4 appointees in two years
The BJP-led government’s record with its AGs has had a history of instability with the first lasting for about six months.
- Sunil Manohar was the BJP government’s first appointee to the post of Advocate General
- His tenure lasted for just about seven months and in June last year, he resigned from the post citing “personal reasons”
- There was a speculation at the time though that the resignation had come after he made some remarks contrary to the state’s stand during a hearing on the beef ban issue
- Manohar, however, continued to represent the government on some matters as a special counsel
- Additional Solicitor General of India Anil Singh was then given the additional charge of the AG’s post
- After four months, Shreehari Aney was appointed to the top post
- However, Aney was forced to tender his resignation on March 23 this year after he made remarks in public supporting separate statehood for Marathwada
- Rohit Deo, who was working as associate advocate general at the time, was appointed to the post of acting AG immediately after Aney’s resignation.