Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung Thursday cancelled the appointment of 15 counsels, who had been picked by the Delhi government to argue its cases in the Supreme court. Sources said the government had approached the L-G, asking him not to cancel the appointments of the three Advocates on Record (AOR) and 12 arguing counsels who represent the Delhi government in the top court.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs intimated the government and the L-G’s office after it came to know about the appointments. Action was taken accordingly,” a senior government official said. Lawyers whose appointments were cancelled had been appointed by the Delhi government on December 11, 2015, as per an order by the then additional secretary, law, Ravi Dadhich.
The three AORs are Chirag M Shroff, Atul Kumar and Jagjit Singh Chhabra, while the 12 lawyers on the arguing panel are Siddharth Dave, Manav Gupta, Kuldip Singh, Amarjit Singh Bedi, Gurmehar Singh Sistani, Yashvardhan, Sunil Sharma, Karuna Nandy, Aishwarya Rao, Naveen R Rath, Niraj Gupta and Charu Walikhanna. In April this year, Chirag Shroff had been appointed in-charge of the AORs.
When contacted, Delhi’s Home Minister Satyendar Jain said, “We have come to know about the cancellation of appointments from the media. We are yet to look into the matter.” The decision to remove the three AORs is likely to impact the ongoing cases in the Supreme Court, where the AAP government is facing off against the Centre. One of the most prominent cases is the appeal filed by the Delhi government against the Delhi High Court’s August 4 verdict, which had recognised the L-G as the “administrator” of Delhi, granting him authority over government decisions in the capital.
Another crucial case is a writ filed by doctors employed by NGOs working with the health department of the Delhi government for regularisation of service and enhancement of pay. In this case, the dispute is over funding of the health programmes and release of funds by the Centre.
Delhi government’s senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra said that the L-G’s decision to remove the AORs and panel counsels would “deny access to justice” to the elected government of Delhi, since the Centre had earlier said that the Delhi government could be represented by the lawyers on the central government panel.
“Is the Centre going to ask that its panel lawyers represent the Delhi government in the cases against the central government? Will we have a situation where Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi will represent the Center while Additional Solicitor General Ranjit Singh or Pinki Anand will represent the Delhi government against each other?” said Mehra.
“It is the grossest contempt of court, you are restraining access to justice,” said Mehra. The L-G had last year raised objections to the appointment of the three AORs and the 12 panel lawyers, stating that the appointments were “not made by proper process”. Mehra, however, said that the HC’s August verdict had clearly said that the power to appoint counsels to represent the Delhi government lies with the state law minister. “The L-G has been ill advised or is deliberately ignoring the HC verdict. The L-G should graciously accept the HC verdict that says that the elected government has the right to appoint its counsels,” said Mehra.