‘Sack AG Atul Nanda’ chorus at Punjab cabinet meeting

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Published on Feb 18, 2020 11:22 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Ravinder Vasudeva, Chandigarh

Punjab’s advocate general (AG) Atul Nanda on Tuesday came under fire from some ministers who demanded his “sacking” during the cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

According to information, jails minister Sukhjinder Randhawa was the first to raise the demand before the CM during an informal chat during the meeting once the official agenda was passed. He started by raising questions on the “competency” of Nanda as AG, citing various cases lost by state government in the court of law.

Randhawa, according to a cabinet minister who wished not to be named, said the state government could face an unprecedented embarrassment some day going by the manner in which AG office is functioning under Nanda. The jails minister was reportedly supported by a few other ministers.

Another minister, who wished not to be quoted, said a minister even alleged “fixing” for seeking dates in the court between government appointed lawyers in the AG office and the opposite parties in crucial cases concerning the state’s interest.

The ministers, it is learnt, cited examples of quashing of appointments of chief principal secretary to the chief minister by Punjab and Haryana High Court, Dinkar Gupta’s as DGP by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and case of coal washing charges.

“AG doesn’t appear personally in major cases and senior lawyers from Delhi are being hired to represent Punjab. If senior lawyers who charge hefty fee has to represent state, what is need to have him as AG,” a minister questioned, it is learnt.

It is not for the first time that demand to sack the AG has come from the Congress quarters. Congress’ Rajya Sabha member Partap Bajwa had recently demanded the same, citing AG’s “incompetence” to defend the interests of the state in various cases.

Nanda, when contacted, said he was not aware of any such demand being raised by ministers. “I have spoken to three ministers after the cabinet meeting and none of them told me so,” said Nanda, while wanting to know the charges levelled by the ministers against him.

“Let met bring it on record that the matter of coal-washing was referred to me on December 24, 2019, after there was already a decision taken on it by the court. About lawyers being hired from Delhi, it has not happened for the first time. Previous SAD-BJP government also hired senior lawyers to defend cases related to last rites of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) head Ashutosh Maharaj and appointment of chief parliamentary secretaries. Big criminal lawyers being hired for cases like Bargari sacrilege shows how important this case is for Punjab,” said Nanda.

He questioned if charges against him was a clamour against somebody else for which he was being targeted. Randhawa, it is learnt, also complained about chief secretary, citing turning down of approval to a Markfed business tour to Dubai.

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