Home NEWS Legal setbacks: Punjab govt considering showing AG Vinod Ghai the door

Legal setbacks: Punjab govt considering showing AG Vinod Ghai the door

Legal setbacks: Punjab govt considering showing AG Vinod Ghai the door

The Punjab government is considering removing the state’s advocate general, Vinod Ghai, in the backdrop of legal setbacks it has lately suffered in the Punjab and Haryana high court, according to people privy to the deliberations in the high official echelons.

Punjab advocate general Vinod Ghai.

“A grim view has been taken of a sloppy performance of the state’s top legal officer in defending the government’s key decisions in the high court,” one of the persons quoted above told Hindustan Times on Saturday, requesting anonymity.

He specifically cited the recent legal fiascos on two high profile cases — dissolution on panchayats and home delivery of atta.

“AG’s office failed to give legal advice on the proposal to dissolve the panchayats before it was put up before the minister and chief minister,” he said, adding: “Instead, Ghai roped in former AG Ashok Aggarwal when the matter reached the high court following a public interest litigation (PIL) without keeping the chief minister’s office in the loop,” the official said.

Finding that it’s notification of panchayat dissolution had no legal leg to stand on, the government had to withdraw it, a U-turn that embarrassed the Mann government and handed a stick to the opposition to beat it with. As a damage control, the government suspended two senior IAS officers for drafting a “technically flawed” proposal before the rural development and panchayat minister and chief minister signed it, triggering an opposition outcry and a PIL.

The legal limbo on the AAP government’s scheme for home delivery of atta to certain economically-weaker sections was also result of a “shoddy homework” by the AG office, said the person quoted above.

The Mann government, he said, has veered around to the view to dispense with the services of Ghai and overhaul the AG office with a new face.

Ghai, a leading criminal lawyer, took over in July 2022, as the second AG after senior advocate Anmol Rattan Sidhu, the first AG in the Mann government, resigned on July 19 following differences over selection of law officers, among other issues. He had cited “personal reasons” in his resignation letter.

Ghai did not immediately respond to HT’s calls and text messages for his comment. However, sources in AG office claimed that in panchayat dissolution case, legal opinion was not taken before the matter was taken up by the state cabinet. The AG office also contested the government claims that Aggarwal was roped in by Ghai.

“It was officers from the concerned department who met Aggarwal and asked him to represent the government on panchayat dissolution in the high court. The AG was informed subsequently,” an officer in the AG office claimed.

Aggarwal appeared in only one hearing when the government sought time to consider the matter. On the next date of hearing, it was state’s advocate general who undertook before the court that the government would withdraw its notification.

The atta scheme was cleared by the state cabinet in May 2022, months before Ghai took over. However, depot holders approached the high court against the decision arguing that essential commodities can only be distributed through fair price shops as per the central and state governments’ instructions from time to time. The state government was forced to put scheme on hold, which was to be launched in October last. The petitions were withdrawn after the government undertook before the court that scheme would be reframed.

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