‘OAG sole legal adviser to govt’

If a government body seeks legal opinion from an alternative arrangement different from the Office of the Attorney General, that is a misuse of tax payers’ money AG Shrestha Raman Kumar Shrestha

Kathmandu, January 19

Attorney General Raman Kumar Shrestha today told government secretaries and high-level officials of security agencies that they should seek legal opinion only of the Office of the Attorney General, and not from other legal practitioners.

Addressing an interaction at his office here today, Shrestha said as per Article 158 of the constitution, the attorney general was the only legal adviser to the government and all government bodies were mandated to seek opinion of the AG and government attorneys. “If any government body   seeks legal opinion from alternative sources or  persons other than government attorneys, it will be deemed unconstitutional and the amount spent on hiring other practitioners,  whether by Nepali Army, Nepal Police, civil service or any other government body, should be treated as  arrears,” he said.

AG’s warning comes in the backdrop of a recent three-day conference of government attorneys that had issued a 30-point declaration. That declaration stated that government attorneys would not defend government bodies’ decisions if they violated the principles of fair trial, the rule of law, accepted principles of justice, human rights, individual liberty and easy access to justice, accountability, morality, good conduct, gender justice and inclusion. Government lawyers also threatened not to defend a government body’s case if it sought legal opinions from alternative bodies or private practitioners.

AG Shrestha said he declined to offer his advice to the Impeachment Recommendation Committee of the Parliament just because the IRC had sought the opinion of chair of Nepal Law Commission and law secretary, who were not authorised to give their opinion to any government body. Shrestha said the AG’s legal opinion should prevail in order to protect the rule of law.  “If a government body seeks legal opinion from an alternative arrangement different from the Office of the Attorney General, that is a misuse of taxpayers’ money,” Shrestha added.

He said often the ministers were seeking legal opinion from alternative arrangements and taking decisions accordingly. “Can the president employ a legal adviser and not rely on the attorney general?” he wondered.

Shrestha said the constitution prevailed over the internal regulations of all government bodies and they should always be mindful of that. Success rate of government cases, he argued, was not very high because government bodies were taking decisions based on the opinion of other law practitioners.

Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi said government bodies had a tendency to seek legal opinion even in cases where it was not needed. He added that all the government bodies should have basic knowledge of law and should take decisions as per the spirit of the law.

Joint Attorney General Uddhav Pudasaini said chances of government bodies’ decisions taken on the basis of the legal opinion of the Office of the Attorney General being quashed by the court were slim.

General Secretary of the Nepal Bar Association Khamma Bahadur Khati told THT that the number of private lawyers being hired by government bodies, including the ministries, could be around 200. He said there were only 350 government lawyers across the country and since they lacked knowledge of civil cases, it would be difficult for them to provide services to all the government offices.