Amid much political controversy, Punjab Advocate General APS Deol on Monday resigned from the post after meeting Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi at his office. This comes after Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu objected to his appointment and argued with Channi over the distribution of portfolios in the new state cabinet.
Deol had replaced Atul Nanda, who had resigned after Captain Amarinder Singh stepped down from the post of Chief Minister of Punjab a few months back.
Sidhu’s objection against Deol as the AG was that he has been the counsel for former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and has secured bail for him in various cases. Saini is also under the scanner in the police firing cases of Behbal Kalan that followed after the 2015 sacrilege cases.
The government to strike a compromise had appointed senior advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains as a Special Public Prosecutor for the politically sensitive sacrilege matters. However, sources said that Sidhu had been insisting on the removal of Deol as he claimed that his continuation will result in questions being raised over propriety. “Deol had defended Saini, so it would have sent a signal that the government wasn’t keen on punishing the culprits in the case,” said a leader close to Sidhu.
Congress sources said that though Channi had defended the appointment of Deol, but continued bickering within the party over key appointments. In the truce formula that had been worked out between Sidhu and Channi, it had been decided to consider Sidhu’s demand and ask Deol to step down.
Sources further said that the Chief Minister had initiated the process for picking up a successor to Deol. Observers say it would be interesting to see if Channi takes Sidhu into confidence before picking up a successor to Deol.
Earlier, Sidhu had been pitching for senior lawyer DS Patwalia as the AG. Sidhu asked how an advocate who represented Saini will possibly prosecute him now. However, the Channi-led government argued that it is going to appoint a special public prosecutor with a team of 10 lawyers to look at “important cases” and hence there should be no worry.
For the unversed, Sidhu was appointed as PPCC chief on July 19 this year, but his differences with Channi surfaced over the distribution of portfolios in the cabinet. Congress leaders pointed out that Sidhu was unhappy with his rival SS Randhawa getting a key ministry and had also objected to the names of APS Deol as essential advocate general and Iqbal Sahota’s appointment as Punjab DGP, with both linked to certain sacrilege cases. When Channi decided to go ahead with these names, Sidhu chose to step down.
However, after several rounds of meetings in Delhi with Sidhu, AICC in-charge of Punjab Harish Rawat later said Sidhu will continue to be the chief of Punjab Congress.