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HS Phoolka to quit as leader of Opposition to fight ’84 riot cases

The Delhi Bar Council had disallowed Phoolka, who is a Supreme Court advocate, from continuing his legal practice citing that he holds an “office of profit” being the leader of opposition.

punjab Updated: Jul 09, 2017 22:31 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
HS Phoolka,AAP,Punjab assembly
AAP MLA and leader of opposition in Punjab assembly, HS Phoolka(HT File)

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader HS Phoolka on Sunday decided to quit as the leader of Opposition in Punjab assembly to continue fighting cases of 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims in Delhi courts.

Phoolka, MLA from Dakha assembly constituency, told Hindustan Times that he has made up his mind and requested AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal to relieve him from the position within a week.

“I have to resign to be able to appear in courts for riot victims. As leader of Opposition, I cannot appear in any cases. I tried to look at other options, but it did not work,” he said.

Also Read | Ready to give up cabinet minister status to fight riots cases: HS Phoolka

Phoolka, a Supreme Court lawyer, was caught between leading the party MLAs in the state assembly and continuing his fight for justice for victims of the 1984 riots and he chose the latter. After the state assembly polls, the AAP had emerged as the principal opposition party with 20 seats while the Congress returned to power with a near two-thirds majority.

The MLA was elected leader of the AAP legislature party on March 16 and become the leader of Opposition in the state assembly. Later, the Delhi Bar Council disallowed him from continuing his legal practice, citing that he held an “office of profit” being the leader of Opposition with a cabinet minister rank.

Recommends 3 MLAs as probable candidates

Phoolka recommended names of MLAs Sukhpal Khaira, Kanwar Sandhu and Aman Arora as probables for the post of leader of Opposition in the Punjab assembly. “The leader of legislature party can be elected from among them as per the choice of other party MLAs. I will resign once the new leader is elected,” he said.

Earlier, the AAP leader had openly expressed the desire to continue appearing in riots cases he was fighting on behalf of victims. “Sought permission to do ’84 carnage case pro bono, Bar Council should realise, it doesn’t amount to practice, rather should encourage it. Seek review,” he tweeted last week after the council disallowed him from appearing in cases against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and others. He had also asked the council if he could continue to appear in court in riots cases by giving up the cabinet minister status, but it did not help.

Fresh race for the post likely

The resignation is likely to trigger a fresh race among the party legislators for the leadership position in the state assembly. Both Khaira, the only AAP MLA with some prior political experience, and Sandhu, a former editor who headed the party’s poll manifesto committee, were among the contenders for the position of leader of Opposition in March also.

Khaira, a firebrand leader, was made the party’s chief whip. When Bhagwant Mann was made the state unit president, he had announced his resignation from the post. Arora is co-president of the state unit.

That the AAP has been lacking cohesion was also visible in last month’s budget session where the party leaders kept trying to outdo or contradict each other.

The party had started by taking on the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government, but was soon playing second fiddle to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which not only managed to give an impression that they were strategising together towards the end of the eight-day session, but also hogged the limelight. There was unease in the party on this, as Khaira hit out at the Akalis immediately thereafter, calling the SAD and the Congress two sides of same coin.

First Published: Jul 09, 2017 13:37 IST