Supreme Court lawyer Atul Nanda, 51, who has defended or advised Captain Amarinder Singh in a number of corruption cases, took over as advocate general (AG) of Punjab on Thursday after the Congress leader took oath as chief minister.
Nanda, who remained additional advocate general of Punjab in the previous Congress regime (2002-07), replaces Ashok Aggarwal, an appointee of the previous SAD-BJP government who got the post in 2011. He hails from Jalandhar and has either defended or advised the chief minister in a number of cases right up to the Supreme Court. This includes the Ludhiana City Centre scam, the Amritsar Improvement Trust case, and his disqualification from the assembly by the Parkash Singh Badal-led government in 2008.
Having shifted to Delhi after his stint as additional advocate general, Nanda was designated as senior advocate by the Delhi high court in 2011 when he was the central government’s standing counsel there.
He also defended Congress leaders in the coal scam case, and recently appeared for Mohammad Sadique, singer-turned-politician, in the Supreme Court over his eventually-quashed disqualification as MLA.
Nanda, who will get cabinet rank, pipped at least five senior advocates considered to be in race for the AG’s post. They include ML Saggar, APS Deol, former assistant solicitor general Anmol Rattan Sidhu; DS Patwalia, son of former SC judge Justice Kuldip Singh (retd); and Sanjay Kaushal, grandson of former Union law minister Jagannath Kaushal.
TOUGH JOB AHEAD
For months now, the state is facing the Punjab and Haryana high court’s ire over financial mismanagement. Scores of appointments made just before the elections and recruitment in various departments are also under the court’s scanner. Faced with these challenges, Nanda is also considered an outsider since he has mostly remained in Delhi in the past decade.
Another daunting task for Nanda would be to get law officers for the state. Punjab is yet to notify rules for appointment as directed by the SC in March last year. Names of selected lawyers have to be put before the HC chief justice for consideration. The term of those appointed by the previous government expires on March 31.
‘REDUCING LITIGATION TOP PRIORITY’
After taking over as the AG, Nanda told reporters that reducing litigation of the state would be his top priority. He also said that he would work towards curbing “adversarial litigation”. On appointments of law officers, Nanda said that he would meet HC chief justice SJ Vazifdar on Friday and later the chief minister to discuss the process.