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Nine months after Sreehari Aney’s resignation, Maharashtra Cabinet approves Rohit Deo as next advocate general

Mumbai: The BJP-led Maharashtra government has chosen acting Advocate General Rohit Deo as its next Advocate General, nine months after his predecessor Sreehari Aney quit the post following a huge row triggered by his espousal of statehood for the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.

A meeting of the state Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, recommended elevation of Deo to the AG’s post to Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, a senior official said.

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. File photo. PTI

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. File photo. PTI

Aney had courted controversy by advocating statehood for Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, which was vehemently opposed by the ruling partner Shiv Sena.

The Sena had then seized on the issue to target the BJP, which, as matter of policy, favoured smaller states, despite Fadnavis asserting that bifurcation of Maharashtra was not on his government’s agenda.

The government had recently filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court, saying the post will be filled by the end of this month.

The Division Bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai was hearing a petition filed by Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt, urging the court to direct the state to appoint an A-G under Article 165 of the Constitution.

The court had criticised the state for not complying with the deadline of 23 December and had adjourned the matter to 9 January.

It had earlier observed that constitutional and statutory functions were suffering due to the non-appointment of the AG and has hurt the cause of justice.

On 18 November, 2014, Sunil Manohar was appointed as the AG, but he resigned on 9 June, 2015. On 11 June, 2015, additional Solicitor General Anil Singh was given the additional post of acting A-G. On 14 October, 2015, Aney was appointed as the AG, and he resigned on 22 March, 2016.

Reacting to the decision, Dutt claimed that the government was compelled to take a decision on the matter after he moved the high court.

In a tweet, Dutt said, “The government has conceded my demand and finally appointed Acting AG as AG.”

“However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis needs to answer why he waited for nine months to appoint Acting AG as the new AG,” said Dutt.

“Maharashtra Chief Minister speaks of good governance but his indecisiveness reflects lack of governance! If acting AG Rohit Deo only was to be made the AG, why the government had waited for 280 days?” he asked in another tweet.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 14:07 IST

Rohit Deo is the full-time Advocate General of Maharashtra now

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It took eight months and a strongly worded High court order for the Devendra Fadnavis government to finalise the name of Adv Rohit Deo as the advocate general of Maharashtra. Deo’s name has been recommended to the Governor on Tuesday by the cabinet. The government had told the Bombay High Court on Friday that it would appoint the AG by 30 December. Congress MLC Sanjay dutt had dragged the Fadnavis government to the court three months back over its prolonged indecision at the cost of state’s welfare. Deo is currently the acting advocate general and has been handling all cases of the government since Shreehari Aney quit in April this year following a controversial statement supporting separate VIdarbha state. Dutt said, “Even as Maharashtra Govt concedes to my demand & finally appoints Advocate General, CM needs to answer why he waited for 9 months to appoint acting AG as AG!” Dutt added that Maha CM owes apology to Maha People following HC order in my petition stating that the appointment of an Acting Advocate General is Not Constitutionally valid.HC order through my petition shall ensure that No Govt will falter on appointing Advocate-General as per Article 165 of Constitution of India.

Tamil Nadu: HC states notification for local body polls done ‘in a rush’

Chennai: Madras High Court on Tuesday observed that the notification for next month’s local body polls in Tamil Nadu was done ‘in a rush’ without giving breathing time to political parties to prepare themselves and directed the state government to give details of the date of notification and date of nominations in previous polls.

Representational image. News18Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

The court, acting on a petition from DMK, seeking to quash the notification, asked the State Election Commission why the polls were announced on Sunday evening and the process of receiving nominations commenced the next day itself, without giving breathing time to political parties and orally observed that it was done ‘in a rush’.

DMK had also sought a direction to Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Tamil Nadu State Election Commission, Director of Town Panchayats, Commissioner of Corporation of Chennai, to conduct the polls by strictly providing adequate reservation to Scheduled Tribes, followed by necessary rotation of seats in all the posts, as mandated in the Constitution.

The party said that under the Constitution, reservation for Scheduled Tribes, both in panchayats and municipalities throughout the state is mandatory, while no reservation was made for STs for the post of District Panchayat presidents and Panchayat Union Presidents.

It alleged that even in Chennai, reservation for STs was not made available.

DMK submitted that the notification was issued on Sunday evening and the process of receiving nominations started the next day. While no time was given to parties, the ruling party, which came to know of the reservations in advance, released the list of candidates on Sunday night itself.

DMK produced an earlier judgement of the Full Court and said the plea is maintainable.The court perused it and pointed out that the order was actually against the then DMK regime.

“You are actually using the bomb which was fired against you,” the court said.

The Advocate General submitted that the writ was not maintainable on two grounds.The first was that there is bar on hearing the election petition particularly after the issue of the election notification.

The other was that the term of local bodies cannot be extended after five years and it is mandatory to conduct the elections before the expiry of current term, he said.

The court however orally observed that there was a rush on the issue of notification and directed the Advocate General to furnish details of the date of notification and the date of nominations in the previous elections.

It then posted the matter for further hearing to 6 October.

On 25 September, the State Election Commission had said that elections to over 1.31 lakh local body posts in Tamil Nadu will be held in two phases on 17 and 19 October.

It had said the nominations would begin on 26 September.

HC directs Tamil Nadu govt to form a committee to check liquor consumption

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Friday directed the state government to form a committee to check the menace of alcohol consumption, particularly among the youth, and submit a status report within two months.

The court’s response came when Advocate General AL Somayaji submitted that a committee will be formed in this regard. However, the court said mere formation of a committee itself may not suffice to monitor the holistic scheme of how to reduce alcohol consumption.

“This is so as lot of private organisation and voluntary agencies worked in these social sectors and may have both information and solution,” it said and pointed out that only a coordinated effort can be successful.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

The matter relates to a PIL filed by Advocates Forum for Social Justice represented by K Balu, its President, also an advocate of the PMK party, seeking a direction to give effect to the recommendations and measures set out in the ‘Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014’.

“We expect the committee to be constituted within a maximum period of two weeks from today. The committee to submit a status report on the action taken within two months of its constitution,” the First Bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan, said.

Disposing of the petition, the bench said “No further directions are required, except that it should be a court monitored process at least initially till the system starts working of its own.”

When the matter came up, the petitioner brought to the knowledge of the court that the toll free prohibition helpline no:10581 was ineffective.

The bench went through the affidavit filed by Apurva Varma, Principal Secretary to Home, Prohibition and Excise Department, in response to the PIL narrating steps taken in respect of the World Health Organization report and heard the Advocate General’s submission.

The bench said though the AG has cited various aspects of the ‘Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, 2014’ being implemented in different forms, “the ground reality is quite different. It cannot be disputed that there is large consumption of alcohol and there is need to check this habit especially in two sectors one the under aged sector and another where essential family means are diverted to purchase of alcohol.”

To prevent liquor consumption among the ‘under aged sector,’ the bench suggested that personnel demand identity cards of such persons, who they suspect are underage, at the liquor sale depots.

IPL 2016: Bombay HC raps Maha govt but refuses to stay opening match

The Bombay High Court on Thursday declined to stay the IPL opening match on April 9 here as sought by a public interest litigation challenging use of large quantity of water for maintaining pitches despite the grave water crisis in Maharashtra due to drought.The PIL, filed by Loksatta Movement, sought shifting of IPL matches out of Maharashtra and wanted a stay on the matches scheduled in other cities in the state as well in view of the water crisis. A bench of Justices V M Kanande and M S Karnik, however, said that it was not staying the match on April 9 as it wanted to know from the state government and the municipal body whether the water supplied to the stadiums in tankers was potable or non-potable.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court was of the opinion that until this query is answered, the issue of granting stay cannot be considered. “The petition is filed just before the IPL matches are to begin from April 9…we do not propose to grant a stay at this stage…we want to know the source of water supplied to the cricket grounds for maintaining the pitches”, the bench observed in its order. The Judges also asked the state government and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to file separate affidavits by April 12, stating whether the water supplied to stadiums during the IPL matches was potable or non-potable.
ALSO READ Maharashtra drought: Latur to get water by train in 15 daysThe Judges also asked both the authorities to inform whether they had formulated any policy for supply of potable and non-potable water to Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan and other cities in Maharashtra. The bench also sought to know from the state and the civic body whether any contingency plans had been drawn in case of further scarcity of water due to delayed monsoon this year.The Judges also asked the authorities to inform in their affidavits whether they had made any inquiries about the source of water supplied to the stadiums through tankers. The bench also asked the authorities to inform whether they had imposed any restraint on use of water in marriages and receptions during April-May 2016 when the state was facing acute water scarcity. Earlier, rapping Maharashtra government, the bench said “this is a serious issue…the government needs to look at it seriously.” “People who have money can afford to have as much water as they can whereas in other places people are getting water once in three days…this is an anomaly,” Justice Kanade said.
ALSO READ Maharashtra drought: Sena makes jibe at CM Fadnavis; says people need to be alive to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’Altogether 20 matches will be played in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur and all these cities are facing water crisis, said the petition. This prompted Justice Kanade to remark “you (state) are dealing with people at large….animals have died, cattle have died, people are dying and you want to maintain pitches and grounds?” The bench asked the government to spell out what short-term and long-term measures it has planned to tide over the water crisis. “It is not the question of IPL alone…what are your (state’s) priorities..how will you regulate water supply…we want to know what you propose to do,” observed Justice Kanade during the hearing.Referring to the issue of tanker lobby, he said “I am told that these tankers charge over Rs 900 per tanker….how it is permissible….how can you allow this…after all, the wells and borewells from where they draw water belong to the Corporation.” Rafiq Dada, BCCI Counsel, said that for IPL matches, the pitches have to remain dry a day before the tournament and a day after that. Hence, water is not required for maintaining the pitches every day.
ALSO READ Supreme Court pulls up Centre on drought relief; says you can’t turn a blind eye towards affected statesActing Advocate General Rohit Deo assured that the state had decided at a high-level meeting today that not a single drop of potable water would be used for maintaining pitches in the stadiums during IPL matches. “We are going to ask the BCCI how much water would they need,” he said.In terms of water scarcity, Mumbai was better off compared to other places in drought-hit state, said the Advocate General. He said, from May 1, water would be transported to Latur in Marathwada region.Justice Kanade remarked “is it not the duty of the state to inquire about water to be used in the stadiums when a drought situation prevails?” “Tankers cannot be used to supply municipal water. Can you allow municipal corporation to make profits by supplying water?,” the Judges said.The bench also sought to know whether the state was considering to draw water from other states to tide over the drought situation in Maharashtra. The PIL contended that 60 lakh litres of water would be used to maintain the pitches at the stadiums where IPL matches would be held from April 9 and it was the state government’s responsibility to impose restraint on the use of water during drought.

Won’t allow ‘senile’ Shrihari Aney inside Marathwada: Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena, an ally of BJP, on Wednesday said it will not allow Shreehari Aney to enter Marathwada, a day after he quit as Maharashtra Advocate General following controversy over his remarks on separate Marathwada.”We won’t allow Aney to step in Aurangabad, in Marathwada,” Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire told reporters at Aurangabad. “Aney keeps coming here in the High Court bench. We won’t let him set foot inside Aurangabad. We will continue our opposition to those who betray Shivaji Maharaj’s dream of a united Maharashtra,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Referring to RSS’ M G Vaidya’s views on division of Maharashtra into smaller states, Khaire said, “Vaidya has become old and what he said are senile thoughts.” Meanwhile, reacting to Shiv Sena’s demand that he be prosecuted for treason, Aney said, “Unfortunately, they (Shiv Sena) would need a good lawyer to tell them what sedition is.The creation of a State is a constitutional process that will be followed. I am not talking about destroying the country, only asking for a separate state.”

Maha Attorney General Aney wants separate Marathwada: Congress wants his head, Opposition wants his suspension

Opposition parties and ruling Shiv Sena in both the Houses of the state legislature are demanding the resignation of Advocate General Shrihari Aney for remarks he made on Sunday in which he expressed support for the demands of separate statehood for Marathwada.

A ruckus ensued in both houses after Nitesh Rane, son of Congress MLA and former chief minister Narayan Rane, asked for Aney’s head on Twitter:

(When his head gets separated from his body, then he will know what it means to break up Maharashtra).

State government also indicated displeasure at the attorney general’s demands for a separate Marathwada. Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde demanded Aney’s suspension and tabled a discussion in the Legislative Council. Munde said that earlier, Aney has supported demands for a separate statehood for Vidarbha and now, he is supporting the demand for statehood for Marathwada “He should be suspended immediately. He can talk about his personal opinions after he is made to sit at home. He shouldn’t give his personal opinions when holding such an important post,” said Munde.

Shrihari Aney. PTI

MLC Kapil Patil said that Aney’s remarks are treason against the state. “Who has given him the right? Until the government suspends him, we will not let the Council function,” he said. The house was adjourned for 30 minutes after the Opposition created a ruckus on the floor of the house.

During a speech in Jalna on Sunday, Aney argued that Marathwada state was the need of the hour as it has suffered grave injustice. Both the houses were adjourned three times as the members wanted debate and immediate action against Aney. After the lower house assembled at 11 am, the leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil appealed to Speaker Haribhau Bagde to suspend question hour so that Aney’s remarks can be discussed.

Vikhe-Patil recalled that when Aney had openly supported separation of Vidarbha from Marathwada in 2015, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had termed it as his personal opinion. However, Vikhe-Patil demanded that the state’s first legal officer should not speak the language of separation of Maharashtra which was formed in 1960. It would be an insult of those 105 persons who died while fighting for Maharashtra’s independence. Nationalist Congress Party leader supported Vikhe-Patil’s demand and pressed for Aney’s resignation.

Shiv Sena member Pratap Sarnaik, who filed a privilege motion against Aney in 2015 over his support to statehood for Vidarbha, said the advocate general should not have made a speech recommending statehood for Marathwada especially when no one else had made a demand in this regard. Instead of keeping the interest of Maharashtra, the advocate general has been delivering speeches for its separation and the Sena would not tolerate it, he warned.

Ganpatrao Deshmukh, a veteran leader of Peasants and Workers Party, also expressed serious displeasure over Aney’s proposal for Marathwada state and demanded his resignation or suspension by the government. NCP leader and former Assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil cited the Constitutional provision for the appointment and duties of the advocate general and demanded action against him.

In the past, Advocate General Shrihari Aney had said that he foresees the rise of more political units in Vidarbha seeking statehood, which could create problems for all political parties. “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,” said Aney.

However, Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said, “The state government does not agree with the AG’s stand on a separate Vidarbha and has given indication to take action against AG.”

Aney, who is six months into his assignment, is known for his legal acumen, conviction and ideology.

Aney, 65, took over from Sunil Manohar, a Nagpur-based senior lawyer who resigned in June 2015, seven months after he had taken over as AG. Born in 1950 in Pune, Aney completed his schooling in Jamshedpur (then in 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.

On Tuesday, Fadnavis will personally take a stand on the AG’s remarks.

Adarsh scam: Fadnavis defends nod to prosecute Ashok Chavan; rejects charge of vendetta

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday defended the Governor’s sanction for prosecuting Congress leader Ashok Chavan in Adarsh scam case, stating the step was taken as per the advice of the state’s top law officer and rejected the “vendetta” charge.Governor C Vidyasagar Rao on Thursday gave sanction to CBI to prosecute former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan in the case, days after the BJP-led state government recommended action against the leader, who is also a Lok Sabha MP. Fadnavis said the opinion of Advocate General was sought on the sanction and the law officer clearly said “such permission should be and could be granted.” “CBI said after the last Governor rejected permission to prosecute Ashok Chavan, a new set of facts was discovered which clearly proved quid pro quo, that is, he gave permissions (for construction of `Adarsh’ building) and his close relatives got flats (in the housing society).”Thus, CBI once again asked the Governor to permit it to prosecute Chavan,” Fadnavis told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said the Governor had forwarded the CBI’s request to the Council of Ministers for aid and advice, which was in turn sent to the Advocate General. “The Council of Ministers, thus, decided to recommend the Governor to act in accordance with the opinion of AG and the Governor in turn gave his consent to CBI to prosecute (Chavan). Hence, there is no question of political vendetta (as alleged by Chavan),” he said.Fadnavis sought to know why would the Governor or the government refuse sanction to proceed against the Lok Sabha MP from Nanded (who is also President of Congress in Maharashtra), when the central agency has stated that it had evidence of his involvement in the case. “Even when the earlier Governor rejected permission and CBI went to the High Court, stating they don’t want to file a chargesheet since Governor had denied sanction, the Court did not accept its plea and directed it to file a chargesheet,” Fadnavis said.The erstwhile Congress-NCP government had also accepted the Adarsh Commission report which “clearly stated that Ashok Chavan is guilty”. They only protected him in ATR (action taken report), saying CBI is already investigating so government does not need to take action, he added.

Bombay HC seeks govt’s view on women’s entry in Haji Ali by February 9

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked Maharashtra government to give its opinion on a public interest litigation challenging the decision of Haji Ali Trust to ban the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of the historic Durgah in Mumbai.As the issue is sensitive, a bench headed by Justice V M Kanade asked Advocate General Srihari Aney to submit arguments on behalf of the state on February 9 stating whether women should be allowed into the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court is seized of a matter about entry of women in Sabarimala temple of Kerala. This is also for the first time that the state has been asked to give its views on women’s entry into a shrine.On Tuesday, when the PIL came up for hearing, the bench was told that the Advocate General was on his legs before another bench in some other matter. Hence, the PIL on Haji Ali Durgah was posted for arguments on February 9 when the Advocate General has been asked to argue on behalf of the State.The HC had indicated last month that it would wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling on entry of women in Sabarimala temple in Kerala before deciding on the plea in the case of Haji Ali Durgah.The judges had said both the matters were similar involving the entry of women in the religious shrines and hence they would like to see what view would the Supreme Court take on the issue before they give a ruling on the interim relief sought by the petitioner in the Bombay High Court.The PIL in Bombay High Court has challenged the decision of Haji Ali Trust to ban the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of the Durgah. The petition had sought interim relief by way of allowing women into the sanctum sanctorum at the Durgah until the matter is finally decided by the court.In the Supreme Court, a petition has sought entry for all women and girls in the Sabarimala temple which, as a practice, does not allow girls after attaining puberty to enter the premises. The temple, however, allows only those women to enter who have reached the menopause stage.The apex court had on January 11 questioned the age-old tradition of banning entry of women of menstrual age group in the Kerala temple, saying this cannot be done under the Constitution. In the Bombay High Court, a petition raised a similar issue — that of ban imposed on entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Durgah. It prohibits women irrespective of their age. The trustees of Haji Ali Dargah had told the HC earlier that entry of women in close proximity to the grave of a male Muslim saint is considered a grievous sin in Islam. The HC had then asked the trustees to reconsider their decision, following which the Trust met and reconsidered their stand while taking the same view of banning entry of women in the Durgah.The Haji Ali Trust argued that the bar on entry is meant to protect women from “uncomfortable situations” and is restricted only to the sanctum sanctorum. The petitioners, however, claimed that gender justice is inherent in the Quran and the norm at the Dargah contravenes the Hadiths which say that women are not prohibited from visiting tombs.The restriction emanates from “a very conservative and extremist Salafi ideology” and in future “there may be an order banning the entry of women in the Durgah complex and banning the non-Muslims wholly,” the petition argued.Raju Moray, the petitioners’ lawyer, contended that at other Durgahs or shrines women are not banned. Women can enter the sanctum sanctorum at the historic Makhdoom Shah Durgah in suburban Mahim, he noted.

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