The Chhattisgarh High Court has asked the State to respond on a PIL moved by two advocates objecting to the “disrespectful” placement of Advocate General at serial number 25, much below Additional Secretary to Government of India and the Additional Solicitor General of India, in India’s Order of Precedence which shows the hierarchy of official positions and seeking a direction to place him at par with the Attorney General of India at serial number 11.
A bench of Chief Justice TB Radhakrishnan and Justice Sharad Gupta has asked the ASG to take instructions from the President’s Secretariat while asking the State government to respond by May 10.
The PIL has been filed by two advocates from Raipur -- Koshram Sahu and Ramnarayan Vyas. While Sahu has been the chairman of the Chhattisgarh Bar Council, Vyas is a member of the Bar Council. They have challenged the placement of Advocate General of State below many other offices like that of Additional Solicitor which, they say, do not trace their origin from the Constitution whereas the office of Advocate General is a Constitutional post under Article 165 and has a long history attached to it.
It is to be noted here that Advocate General, who is the supreme law officer of the state, is also an ex-officio member of the State Bar Council.
The office is currently occupied by Jugal Kishore Gilda.
The PIL challenged the placement of Advocate-General on the 25th position, below many non-Constitutional posts, in the order of precedence which is a protocol list established by the President of India.
The petitioners have impleaded the Secretariat of the President of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice and the State of Chhattisgarh.
“The petition is principally challenging the order of precedence issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs vide notification no. 33-Pres/79 dated 26th July 1979 in which the Advocate General of a State of the Union of India finds place at Sr.No. 25 below Additional Secretary to Government of India and Additional Solicitor General of India both non-constitutional posts,” said the petition.
“In the table of the order of precedence, the Advocate General of the State is placed at Sr. No. 25 below Additional Solicitor General and Additional Secretaries to the Government of India whereas, the Chief Justice of India is kept at par with Speaker of the Lok Sabha at Sr. No. 6, at Sr. No. 9 are placed Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court, at Sr. No. 11 the Attorney General of India, however, he is placed above the Cabinet Secretary to Government of India and Lieutenant Governors, at Sr. No. 14 Chief Justice of High Courts are placed.
“It is quite disturbing to see that, in the table of precedence dated 26/07/1979 holder of a constitutional post under Article 165 of the Constitution of India has been placed below the Assistant Solicitor General and Additional Secretaries to the Government of India which are not posts tracing their origin to the Constitution,” it said.
The petitioners pray for a direction to the respondents to “suitably modify the table of precedence dated 26/7/1979 and to direct that the Advocate General of the State may be placed at par with the Attorney General of India who is placed at Sr. No. 11 over and above the Cabinet Secretary to Government of India and Lieutenant Governors”.
They also contest the order of precedence published by the State of Chhattisgarh in 2013 in which, the Advocate General is placed at Sr. No. 22 alongwith Deputy Ministers of Chhattisgarh, Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Secretary of Chhattisgarh, Government Chief Whip of Chhattisgarh, Former Speaker of Chhattisgarh, Chairman, Chhattisgarh Arbitration Tribunal, Chairman, Chhattisgarh State Waqf Tribunal, Chairman, Chhattisgarh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
“It is quite astonishing to notice that, in the order of precedence, persons who are not holding constitutional posts such as Lokayukt (Sr.No. 17) is placed along with Hon’ble the Chief Justice of High Court of Chhattisgarh as also the Hon’ble Speaker of the Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha. Even the leader of opposition of Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha, Former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Former Chief Justice of High Court of Chhattisgarh, Armed Forces Officers of the rank or equivalent of Lt. General and other persons like Chairman of various Tribunals and Commissions have been placed over and above the Advocate General,” it said.
The petitioners said they were aggrieved because of the inferior treatment given to its (Bar Council’s) ex-officio member and holder of a constitutional post under Article 165 of the Constitution whereby, the exalted and ancient office of the Advocate General has been given a constitutional status and added that the office of Advocate General is older than the office of the Attorney General of India and that of the Solicitor General of India and in the pre-Constitution period, was known as the office of Advocate General for the Federation under the Government of India Act, 1935.