Advocate General Shrihari Aney says he foresees the rise of more political units in Vidarbha seeking statehood, which could create problems for all political parties.
Aney, who took over as the AG four months ago, has been a vocal supporter of a separate state for Vidarbha for long, given his roots in the region. The demand for a separate state is only likely to gather more momentum and Aney says he would also exert pressure on Delhi in the future on this count.
According to Aney, his conviction and belief on this was based on what he reckons was the partisan and discriminatory treatment meted out to Vidarbha. “Unless it becomes a state, the problems cannot be addressed. And the Constitution, in Article Two and Three, has outlined steps on how states have to be created. There is also a lot of disparity in opinions on the subject. Despite that, the Constitution provides for steps. If there is a need then why not? In the foreseeable future, pressure of our demand will be mounted on Delhi,” he told The Indian Express in an interview.
Already, small “start-ups” comprising his supporters have been formed. “If there is strength in representation, then it will be given consideration. I also see the rise of greater political units in Vidarbha creating a lot of problems for political parties including the ruling party. It needs not merely public disaffection but voicing of political opinions. I have been suggesting referendum; the method of dialogue. Take popular vote, if 51 per cent don’t support it, do not make it,” Aney said.
Four months into his current assignment, Aney who is known for his legal acumen insists on retaining his conviction and ideology. Aney, 65, took over from Sunil Manohar, a Nagpur-based senior lawyer who resigned in June, seven months after he had taken over as AG.
Born in 1950 in Pune, Aney completed his schooling in Jamshedpur (then Bihar, now in Jharkhand). He later completed his BCom from Wadia College in Pune and then studied law at Indian Law Society’s Law School in Pune. “I see myself as a Marathi manoos. My mother is from Pune. I studied in Pune. I do not see the conflict. If asked to choose, I would say it is a completely irrelevant matter of choice,” says Aney.
He calls himself “conscience keeper” of all those voicing the same opinion. The role, he clarifies, is being discharged by several others. “I am someone who expresses on behalf of the people their sentiments, deeper anxieties. Not necessarily a leader, but a conscience keeper,” he insists.
For Aney, it was a difficult to take up the AG’s job given the conflicts involved. But the CM pointed out to him as to how many such occasions would arise. “Won’t I advise the government, if need be, he asked. I said yes. He felt if I was going to discharge my duties with the best of my ability, then why not take it up? But, if at all a situation does arise, I cannot compromise on my conviction,” says Aney.
His reluctance was also owing to the fact that he had slowed down on his private practice and was spending more time with family, traveling, reading and painting. “I am involved in the political cause of Vidarbha and the disengagement was difficult,” he says.
Aney denies any affiliation toward a political party but refers to his proximity to the ruling party. The office was vacant, he points out, and it was clear that the government needed someone whom they could rely on to take over. “Considering the closeness to the government and its large political constituencies in Vidarbha I took the responsibility.” he says.
“My advice in terms of the proposed action against Shobhaa De was respected by the Speaker. The government has worked on my advice to sort out the problem of illegal structures. The issue had been hanging for many years. There are considerations but the government accepted the advice,” says Aney.
He dealt with the argument of consumption of beef falling in the realm of Right to Privacy. It is not, he argues. Secondly, the factual burden in relation to criminal action on the state. “And in that scenario, the state must assume a minimum amount of responsibility to bring the charge and decide,” he says.
“It is my personal feeling that the courts have been burdened with a great deal of work, which is not judicial. They are pulling the load of the legislature and the executive,” says Aney. “Courts are carrying out three functions already. Unfortunately, there is a change from how bureaucracy saw itself earlier and now. There has to be a fine balance between the legislature and the executive. Earlier they would work with each other and listen to each other. A time for introspection has come,” he suggests.