Yogi govt retains many from SP-era standing counsel. BJP, RSS lawyers miffed
The appointment of the standing counsel in Uttar Pradesh has raised the hackles of the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While 50 advocates appointed by the erstwhile Samajwadi Party government have been retained by Yogi Adityanath, saffron loyalists have been given a short shrift.
The first list of 201 counsels in different categories was released by the state law department immediately after Legal Remembrancer (LR) Ranganath Pandey’s appointment as judge of the Allahabad High Court on Friday.
On finding some of the old names again in the list, the Adhivakta Sangh -- a body of lawyers ideologically close to the ruling party and the RSS -- broached the subject with Sangh functionaries.
In fact, one of them expressed shock at not finding her name on the list despite being backed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Such lawyers are peeved, especially at the re-appointment of the son of former Samajwadi Party minister Shivakant Ojha.
Besides the 50 names, there were 79 other advocates whose allegiance to the BJP was suspect, party sources said.
Following widespread discontent, state Law Minister Brajesh Pathak and Advocate-General Raghvendra Singh were reportedly summoned to Bharti Bhawan, Lucknow and were asked to explain how pro-SP advocates were retained. When both expressed ignorance, Sangh bosses wanted to know if the list could be recalled.
An RSS functionary when contacted did not deny Sangh’s intervention but said he was busy and would not be able to comment on the issue. Pathak denied having cleared the list.
“I did not see the list and I also do not know who incorporated those names.“The government is looking into the matter and it would be resolved soon,” he said.
Seeing the resentment sweeping the lawyer fraternity, Shailendra Singh Chauhan, former city unit president of the BJP’s lawyers’ cell, released a press note saying that several lawyers associated with the RSS and party organisation were angry at the partial treatment meted out to them.
“These lawyers have given different arguments on how those loyal to the party and the Sangh were sidelined in favour of SP appointees. Some senior lawyers said names suggested by them were not even considered,” Chauhan said in the release.
Chauhan, who himself has been appointed standing counsel, expressed solidarity with the agitated lawyers and said that senior party leaders were also upset with the list as efforts were on to find out who was “sheltering these elements” and who was the “master-mind of the plot to demoralise senior lawyers”.
Explaining the procedure of appointing government counsels a former Legal Remembrancer said that “technically the LR moves the names and the list is approved by the law minister”. The advocate-general has little role to play; he can only suggest a few names.
The present situation turned complicated as both the law minister and the AG have washed their hands off the list.
Interestingly, the former LR said “50% of the government counsel don’t even have a decent practice and take up these assignments as their monthly salary ranges from Rs 50,000 to Rs 3-4 lakh.”
“With the state being the biggest litigant, most of the times it ends up losing the cases for this reason. Contrary to the Supreme Court guideline there are no criteria, other than loyalty to the party, for making these appointments,” he said.
In March 2016 a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court issued a set of guidelines for appointing government counsel at the district and high court levels.
The point in the SC order that may queer the pitch for the present government said: “Judicial review of any such appointments will, however, be limited to examining whether the process is affected by any illegality, irregularity or perversity/irrationality. The court exercising the power of judicial review will not sit in an appeal to reassess the merit of the candidates, so long as the method of appointment adopted by the competent authority does not suffer from any infirmity.”