Controversy has erupted with regard to a constitutional office in Chhattisgarh, after it was announced that Satish Chandra Verma was appointed as the new Advocate General for the state.
An announcement to this effect was made late last night. Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Bhagel informed the press that Senior Advocate Kanak Tiwari, who was appointed Advocate General after the Congress came to power in the state, had handed in his resignation.
Even as Verma prepares to take charge as the new Advocate General, his predecessor has denied resigning from the post. Speaking to Bar & Bench, Tiwari said,
“The issue is very simple. I have not resigned. And the government never asked me to resign. There was no reason for me to resign.”
At 78, Tiwari is oldest member of the Congress party in Chhattisgarh holding a post of significance. Additionally, he is also the only designated Senior Advocate of the party. So, when the Congress came to power last year, he was a shoo-in to become Advocate General.
However, as per Tiwari’s account, petty politics has paved the way for his ouster from the office.
He claims that Verma, who has close personal relations with the Chief Minister, was promised the office should Bhagel come to power. Says Tiwari,
“After I was made AG, he [Verma] became very hostile. I pacified him and told him that promises are broken in politics.”
Tiwari eventually convinced Verma to work with him, after which he was made Additional Advocate General for the state.
“From day one, he has been digging my grave. He has personal relations with the Chief Minister, and they were conspiring since the start.”
Tiwari points to two reasons why the dispensation might have found fault with him.
Kanak Tiwari says that shortly after the Congress government came to power in Chhattisgarh, a number of Special Investigation Teams (SITs) were constituted SITs for implicating politicians and bureaucrats from the opposition party. The constitution of these SITs was frowned upon by different judges of the Chhattisgarh High Court through different orders.
“So, I advised the CM that we were doing something that was not very palatable. I advised them not to make it seem like an act of revenge. The party members did not like this advice, and never told me.”
These SITs were constituted to probe charges framed under Section 13(1)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which deals with punishment for unaccounted accumulation of wealth. Tiwari says,
“Any lawyer will tell you that this is the weakest point of the Act for the prosecution. Without going into company law, income tax authorities, or banks, they simply started charging these people under this section. So, the Court naturally granted bail, because even the inquiry was not complete.
I predicted that these people will get off with bail, and ultimately it happened. The gentleman who has now been appointed AG was handling those cases. Having failed miserably, they are now frustrated.”
The Order of Precedence
Another probable reason for Tiwari’s ouster took shape even before he was appointed AG. A matter had been filed in Chhattisgarh High Court challenging a government circular announcing the order of precedence for the state, which enlists important officials in order of importance. The circular had placed the Chief Justice of the High Court at 17, while the Advocate General was at 22.
Back in October last year, then Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court AK Tripathi quashed this circular, and directed the government to bring out a fresh circular within two months. In this background, Tiwari says,
“Before I was appointed AG, I kept on writing to the government to correct this situation, lest a contempt petition be filed in the Court. The Law Secretary for some reason took it personally – he is of the opinion that he is the appointing authority of the Advocate General.
The Law Secretary has not met with the office of the Advocate General for the last five months. No Law Secretary in the country would refuse to go to the AG’s office on request or demand. He also became a force against me.”
In the backdrop of these events, Tiwari claims that the government has misconstrued one of his letters bringing to light administrative difficulties in the Advocate General’s office for his letter of resignation.
“They wanted to get rid of me, but I never resigned. I am told that in some letters, I have mentioned that I am finding it difficult to run the AG’s office. They construed this to be a resignation letter. On that basis, the Law Minister moved file and the Chief Minister signed it and handed it to the Governor.”
When asked whether he plans to take any action, Tiwari says,
“Right now, I have no plans. I have yet to see the letter of resignation that I never wrote. I want to see the letter first. This is not the way to ease out the Advocate General, who is a constitutional officer.”