The Punjab government has decided to bring a legislation to apparently blunt the Supreme Court judgment on appointment of law officers. The March 2016 judgment of the SC makes it mandatory to have an eligibility criteria, besides constituting a search committee. After nod from the search committee, the names are to be sent to the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court and appointments can take place after taking into account observations on suitability of candidates by the chief justice.
State advocate general Atul Nanda said the government is examining it and “very soon” the matter is going to be put up before the state cabinet, which held its first meeting on Saturday. “We agree with the Supreme Court that there should be a minimum criteria and appointments should be made according to workload,” he said, “But at the same time you will agree with me that government needs to have law officers who enjoy its confidence. It is sensitive work,” Nanda added.
The advocate general’s office is assessing the work load to reach at a number of law officers to be appointed. The contours of the proposed law are being discussed threadbare and the bill is likely to be presented before the new state assembly, slated to have its maiden session from March 24. If need be, the term of the officers appointed by the previous government (of the SAD-BJP) will be extended by a month, sources in the AG office said.
The advocate general said the number of law officers is going to be less than that in the previous government. “We are clear in our mind on optimum use of resources across the spectrum. The number of law officers will be brought down considerably. This government will have a system which will be a model for future governments,” Nanda said when asked as to how many officers he plans to have.
The SAD-BJP government had faced criticism in public and in the Supreme Court on appointing more law officers than were required. It had 193 law officers — 165 at the high court and 28 in Delhi. Of the 165 officers at the HC, 68 are additional advocates general, three senior deputy advocate generals and 40 deputy advocate generals; besides 54 assistant advocates general. Nanda hinted that there would be fewer appointments on higher posts.
Also, in order to lessen litigation, Nanda said, the government would adopt a “multi-pronged policy”. Every appeal to SC will be cleared by the AG himself after a brief by the law officer concerned. “Work of law officers in districts too will be assessed,” he added.
Nanda, who appeared hurt on being termed an outsider by a section in Chandigarh since he has practised in Delhi for most of his professional career, said, “I am more Punjabi than anybody else and alive to problems of Punjab and Punjabis.” A Jalandhar native, he said all law officers to be appointed by the government will be from the state.