Law dept has picked 61 advocates to replace the existing ones. But only 36 of the current team have resigned; the rest are daring govt to dismiss them
A crisis has been triggered in the corridors of the High Court of Karnataka by none other than the state government. Over the past few days, government advocates — right from the state public prosecutor (SPP) to government pleaders — have been told to tender resignations. The law department has prepared a list of 61 advocates, 12 of them women, for the posts of the SPP, additional SPP, principal government advocate, additional government advocate and government pleader. Sources said the law department had sent the list to the chief minister for his signature.
Never before had a new government undertaken such a massive overhauling. But it is headed for the warpath with only 36 of the existing 73 government advocates tendering their resignations. The rest are holding on to their posts, daring the government to dismiss them.
As of now, there is an advocate general, two additional advocate generals, one SPP, three additional SPPs, one special public prosecutor, three principal government advocates, 29 additional government advocates and 33 government pleaders. Sources say that except for the advocate general and the two additional advocate generals, the rest have been given marching orders by the state. Senior government advocates B Veerappa and R Devadas too will stay on.
Till October 5, 36 tendered their resignations; the government needs resignations of another 25 to install the 61 new names they have prepared.
The Karnataka Law Officers’ Act and Karnataka Law Officers’ Rules (1977) makes it clear that new appointments have to be specific: whether they are replacing existing posts, filling up vacancies or new posts are being created. Since no new post has been created and there is no vacancy, each of the 61 names put forward by the law department must specify which existing officer is being replaced.
Also, government advocates cannot be sacked as per the whims of the government. They would have to be given a one-month notice and pay if they do not resign on their own after the government’s request.
‘THE BHAVANI SINGH ISSUE
Recently, the Siddaramaiah government faced the ire of the Supreme Court for withdrawing Bhavani Singh as special public prosecutor in the J Jayalalithaa case. Singh was reinstated following an SC order which stated that the government ought not to have indulged in a sudden change of opinion due to the change of the political party in power. In this backdrop, the wholesale change of government advocates is likely to become a seething issue in the coming days.
Ashok Haranahalli, former Advocate General of Karnataka, said, “Every time a new party comes to power, changes are made. Usually, it is the Advocate General and State Public Prosecutors who are replaced. Since the Congress government has come to power, they may be replacing more people. Finally it is the prerogative of the government. They take resignations and get new people. If they don’t resign, the government can still replace them. The most important consideration for a new government would be the confidence they have on the government advocates. Second, advocates who supported the Congress would have their own demands. Third, even caste considerations may come into play. Finally there are the MLAs who would want their people in these posts. The government would have to please everyone.”
Former State Public Prosecutor, H Chandramouli, said, “Every time there is a change in government, changes are made. Usually it happens almost as soon as a new party comes to power. This time it is happening a little late. Some people are retained while others are changed. It is not a new practice. Even if every government advocate is replaced, it cannot be challenged.”