As the friction between the AAP government in Delhi and the office of the Lieutenant Governor continues, the AAP government has claimed that the Lt-Governor’s office is impeding the elected government’s right to choose the counsels of its choice to fight its legal battles in the Supreme Court, including those against the Centre.
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After the August 4 decision of the Delhi High Court in which it held that Delhi continued to be a Union Territory under the authority of the Lt-Governor, a three-member committee was appointed by Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung to examine over 400 files on decisions taken by the government since February 2015, in which the Lt-Governor’s approval was not taken.
The files under scrutiny also pertain to the appointments of senior counsels to represent the government in various matters pending before the Supreme Court. As a result, the AAP government claims it cannot appoint its counsels nor can it pay the fees of the counsels appointed earlier.
”Yes, the pending bills are a problem. The elected government is facing difficulties in engaging counsels to match the central government’s attorney general and his full team in the Supreme Court,” said AAP government spokesperson Nagender Sharma.
The senior counsels whose fees remain unpaid include Chander Uday Singh, Sudheer Nandrajog, Guru Krishan Kumar and Raju Ramachandran, said sources in the government. Singh and Ramchandran confirmed that they were yet to receive their fees from the government. The total amount of fees that the government owes its counsels, however, is about Rs 3 crore, which includes fees for appearances in many different hearings over several months.
Sources told The Indian Express that last week, a senior counsel appearing for the government was told to seek an adjournment in a matter before the Supreme Court at the last minute because his appointment and payment of fees was being reviewed by the Lt-Governor’s office.
Delhi government’s senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra said, “There has been one case in the Supreme Court in which a direction was passed for appointing lawyers from the central law agency or the additional solicitor general of the Government of India and the appointment of a senior council was denied by the Lt-Governor.”
Sources in the Lt-Governor’s office said, “As required under the procedure, the approval of the Lt-Governor has to be sought while engaging counsels out of the government panel. Since the government had not done this before (Delhi High Court decision of August 4), these files are now placed before the independent three-member committee. The concerned secretaries have themselves submitted these files to the committee and the committee is examining them.” As per the procedure, any such appointment in the future too will have to be made with the approval of the Lt-Governor, sources said and added that the Lt-Governor’s office has no role to play in the payment of counsels’ fees.
”This is an unnecessary confrontation involving lawyers. For lawyers the government is both the Lt-Governor and the elected government. We don’t make that distinction,” said a Delhi government counsel, who wished to remain anonymous.