MONTHS after rebel ministers slammed the then Capt Amarinder Singh-government for its judicial officers’ failure to block former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini’s bail in an alleged case of corruption, the newly rejigged Congress government in Punjab, on Monday, appointed the former top cop’s counsel and Senior Advocate Amar Preet Singh Deol as Advocate General.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Deol said he had returned Saini’s file. “My first interest is the state’s interest. I have taken charge and we will start working from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards,” he said.
Deol was Saini’s prime counsel and had succeeded in getting the former DGP blanket relief from arrest in all the four FIRs registered against him by the Punjab Police till the Assembly election in state, due in February 2022.
Soon after Saini was bailed out, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who is now a Deputy chief minister, had in a tweet, demanded the sacking of former DGP Dinkar Gupta, former Advocate General Atul Nanda and Punjab Vigilance chief BK Uppal. Randhawa had alleged that the “officials were not able to block Saini’s bail by not defending the case properly.”
Legal luminaries state that Deol should not appear on behalf of the government in cases relating to Saini. “It is a principal rule of capital importance. He cannot appear on behalf of the plaintiff if he is defending the accused in the same case. Call it an ethical or moral issue but it is a conflict of interest,” a legal expert told The Indian Express, on condition of anonymity.
The lawyer quoted the rules framed by Bar Council of India on professional ethics, saying, “An advocate who has advised a party in connection with the institution of a suit, appeal or other matter or has drawn pleadings, or acted for a party, shall not act, appear or plead for the opposite party in the same matter.”
When asked about the conflict of interest, Deol said, “I will not appear in Saini’s case on behalf of the government. I will appoint a special prosecutor. I am away from these cases. And all others are old cases except for one. ”
Deol said he was appointed to the post of AG by the Congress high command. “The high command had asked for my bio-data before finalising my name. The Congress government, during 2002-2007, had appointed me as a prosecutor in former CM Parkash Singh Badal’s case. I will ensure that the state’s interest are not compromised. Senior advocates were not a part of the team earlier. I will put together a team of senior lawyers so that we do not have to hire expensive lawyers from outside. These lawyers charge heavily, and do not have as much commitment to the cases as is required.”
Deol’s appointment assumes significance as the new government led by Charanjit Singh Channi has been formed on the unsaid premise that it would deliver justice in sacrilege and police firing cases. Saini was the state police chief during these incidents.
The new AG’s appointment comes over a week after Channi was sworn in the chief minister. Channi had first approached a noted lawyer Anupam Gupta for the top post in the legal department of the state but he declined. Gupta told The Indian Express, “I was made the offer at the highest level of the government, within 24 hours of CM’s taking over. It was made to me very graciously. But I humbly declined”.
After that the government had cleared the appointment of another senior advocate Deepinder Singh Patwalia. But before the file could be sent to the Governor, AICC leader Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have intervened after several part leaders pointed out Patwalia’a proximity to late BJP leader Arun Jaitley. Later, the name of senior advocate Anmol Rattan Singh Sidhu was also considered for the post.
Finally, on Monday, Deol was appointed as AG. He is a senior lawyer of the Punjab and Haryana High Court who specialises in criminal and constitutional matters. He enrolled as an advocate in August 1984, and was designated senior advocate in April 2007.
Son of Malkiat Singh Deol, a criminal lawyer in Bathinda, APS Deol remained member of Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana for two terms from year 1990-97, 1997-2002. He also remained as the youngest chairman of the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana at the age of 31 years.
In the past, Deol has represented Punjab as well as various high profile political personalities and corporate houses of the country in numerous criminal cases, which include the disproportionate assets case against Parkash Singh Badal, as a Special Public Prosecutor for Punjab in 2007.
Deol has also represented Amarinder Singh as well as former Cabinet minister Jagjeet Singh.
The notification issued on Monday by the Government of Punjab, reads, ‘The Governor of Punjab in exercise of the powers conferred under Article 165 of the Constitution of India, is pleased to appoint Amar Preet Singh Deol, Senior Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court as Advocate General for the State of Punjab with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office.’
Earlier, the government accepted the resignation of former AG Atul Nanda on Monday.
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