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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Non-performing Govt advocates being shunt out

Sr AAG, AAG Jammu being clubbed with ‘dead wood’ for unknown reasons

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 1: Department of Law has begun a cleansing exercise to effect a major shake up in all layers of government advocates. While as search is underway to find meritorious and competent advocates for induction, a sizeable chunk of non-performing government advocates are being shown the door in near future.

If highly placed authoritative sources are to be believed, even a few of the well performing government advocates are also being disengaged. Those being dropped inspite of their track record of impressive performance include Senior Additional Advocate General (Sr AAG) Jammu, Mr Subhash Chander Gupta, and AAG, Mr Abdul Hamid Qazi. Latter, according to sources, is currently under tremendous pressure to submit his resignation. Even as the cause of clubbing Mr Qazi with the “dead wood” is still unclear, sources insisted that a couple of Cabinet Ministers had grown angry with him over “not resisting” J&K High Court’s interim directions in a PIL related to land grabbing in Jammu.

According to these sources, it was being conveyed to Mr Qazi that in case he failed to put in his papers of resignation, he could be clubbed with the “dead wood” and shown the door. Why the establishment had begun to dislike the Sr AAG Mr Gupta, was not known immediately. Sources said that services of AAG in Jammu, Mr Jagdish Parihar, and a junior Government Advocate, Deepika Mahajan, were also likely to be terminated on account of alleged non-performance.

According to sources, a major overhaul in the government’s litigation and prosecution wings had become inevitable in the wake of public criticism that most of the government advocates had been engaged merely on account of their political and bureaucratic clout. There was consensus on the assessment that the government had been losing most of the lawsuits and getting adverse orders from courts mainly due to the fact that a large number of its advocates were neither competent nor performing well for a host of reasons. Integrity of few others, according to sources, was being viewed as “doubtful”.

Minister incharge Law, Ali Mohammad Sagar, has taken over a dozen meetings to review performance of the government advocates and sensitize them on their duties in the last two years. However, the system of engaging advocates on account of their relationship to the ruling coalition politicians and bureaucrats is continuing unabated.

Currently, the state government has one Advocate General (Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri), three Sr AAGs (Ali Mohammad Magray in Srinagar, S C Gupta in Jammu and Gaurav Pachnanda in New Delhi), eight AAGs (four each in Srinagar and Jammu), eight Deputy Advocates General (four each in Srinagar and Jammu) besides four Government Advocates in Srinagar and two in Jammu. This higher stratum of government advocates is supposed to represent the state government in J&K High Court. Mr Pachnanda has been representing the State both at J&K High Court as well as Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. In addition to them, Government has been also engaging special lawyers like Harish Salve in the infamous Shopian ‘rape-cum-murder’ case in 2009.

The State Government has also an army of nearly 100 standing counsels and legal advisors to contest its matters in subordinate judiciary. All are appointed by Department of Law.

While as Home Department has a separate army of prosecutors for contesting criminal matters in subordinate courts, Department of Law also engages about 30 Public Prosecutors to plead criminal cases in equal number of District and Sessions Courts in 22 districts.

Sources said that the process of refurbishing the activity and performance of government advocates was already underway and it could be completed in the current month. Performance of the lawyers was being examined by different officials in two or three departments, sources added.

Advocate General, Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri, declined to comment on the names available with Early Times but he confirmed that a number of government advocates were likely to be replaced in near future. He said that he had lately written a note to the higher authorities to underscore the need of replacing the non-performing lawyers by fresh, energetic, meritorious and competent incumbents. He, however, made it clear that he had not mentioned any names.

Mr Qadiri said that Government was now obtaining reports with respect to the performance of government advocates from various Heads of Departments and Administrative Secretaries as also some members of judiciary. He said that the offices of Advocate General and Director Litigation would finally make individual assessment of all the incumbents and also evaluate proposed incumbents on the basis of different criteria. “No final decision has been taken till date”, Mr Qadiri asserted. He said that the need of refurbishing the entire system had arisen out of certain adverse orders in some matters besides clamour of some legislators during recent session of legislature.


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