Hindustan Times: Surinder Sharma: Chandigadh: Saturday, May 20, 2017.
Delhi lawyer and additional solicitor general of India, Tushar Mehta, who is defending Haryana government in Jat quota violence cases, including alleged Murthal gangrapes, is being paid Rs 7.7 lakh per hearing.
As per the information obtained under the Right to Information Act, Mehta attended five hearings between April 11, 2016 and October 22, 2016 and was paid Rs 38.5 lakh. Besides a fee of Rs 7 lakh per hearing, he is being given Rs 70,000 as clerkage. After October 22, Mehta appeared in three more hearings on December 3, February 28 and March 3 and the matter is still pending.
The state had to engage a counsel from Delhi even as it has 150 odd law officers at its advocate general office in Chandigarh. These include at least 35 additional advocates general, a rank below the advocate general. Law officers in Haryana are paid in the bracket of Rs 1-2 lakh per month.
Unprecedented violence was witnessed in February 2016 for more than a week in which 30 persons lost their lives and property worth hundreds of crores got damaged. The state police had registered 2,112 FIRs including one in alleged Murthal gangrapes. Out of these, nine, including five related to damage to properties of state finance minister Captain Abhimanyu’s house and his relatives properties in Rohtak and four related to Munak canal breach case, have been transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Not only the police, state’s babus and political executive had come under severe criticism for inaction by a government appointed panel led by former Uttar Pradesh DGP Prakash Singh. Soon after the violent protests, the state assembly had passed a law giving reservation to Jats and other communities.
In April, the government first roped in Mehta and immediately after that it engaged another Delhi lawyer, senior advocate, Supreme Court, Jagdeep Dhankar to defend it in a clutch of petitions filed challenging 2016 decision of government to give 10 percent quota to Jats and five other communities. That case was reserved for final judgment in March. His fee details are not in public domain.
As per the RTI applicant, Maneeh Bali, a lawyer and resident of SAS Nagar, the state is yet to give details as to whether it was a government decision or the recommendation came from advocate general office. “Advocate general office is a public office. Actually, I wanted to know as to why the state hired a Supreme Court lawyer when advocate general office had a battery of lawyers,” said Bali, adding that it showed the state has not been able to appoint good lawyers at its advocate general office.
This was the reason why the Supreme Court in March 2015 had asked the government to fix criterion for the selection of law officers.
Defending the engagement of a Delhi lawyer, state advocate general, BR Mahajan said that he was engaged in “extra ordinary circumstances”. “It was a matter in which the court had taken cognisance. The matter was not against a private party.
There were compelling circumstances to get a lawyer of his standing, given the state’s officers and government was in dock. We had to defend our case strongly,” he said. Mahajan though did not confirm as to how much was being paid to Mehta and said that all these details are not with advocate general office.