THREE DAYS after the Jammu and Kashmir government dismissed Sunil Fernandes, its standing counsel in Supreme Court, sharp differences have emerged between coalition partners PDP and the BJP in the state. The BJP has complained that the party was kept in the dark over the decision to dismiss Fernandes. “If they (PDP ministers) have to appoint or remove someone, they should take into confidence their junior ministers as well,’’ state BJP’s chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi said. But in this case, the party learnt it from the media, said Sethi, a senior advocate.
Fernandes, who had been the state’s chief standing counsel since September 2015 in his second stint (his first stint in the post was between May 2010 and September 2013), was on February 6 evening asked to resign “immediately’’. Although the government gave no reason, the provocation appeared to be the Supreme Court judgment of December 16 last year, in which the court held that Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002, will apply to J&K too.
The decision comes weeks after CM Mehbooba Mufti ordered in December that all files requiring ministerial approval should be routed through junior ministers concerned. This was seen as a bid to delegate more financial and administrative powers to ministers of state (MoS).
The PDP’s Abdul Haq Khan is the state Law and Justice Minister, and BJP’s Ajay Nanda the MoS for Law.
Elaborating the BJP’s stand, Sethi said, “Fernandes’s sacking is not justified, as the state’s stand in court was vetted by the government.” He said that in dealing with the issue of SARFAESI Act’s application to J&K the apex court had given a ruling on constitutional position of the state.
Calling it a good verdict, Sethi said that if PDP thought that it was such an “important” issue, “the government should have deputed its advocate general to contest the case in apex court”.