Province 2 chief attorney seeks amendment to the constitution

Kathmandu, September 1

Chief Attorney of Province 2 Dipendra Jha recently told his office staff to represent the provincial government in the Supreme Court in a case filed by Province 2 against the federal government for bringing Sagarnath Forestry Development Project under the centre’s jurisdiction. However, his staff defied him, citing conflict of interest.

Jha’s staff told him that they were loyal to the Office of the Attorney General, as Article 158 (6) of the constitution had stipulated that the OAG should manage the employees under the Office of Chief Attorney.

According to Jha, employees of his office said they had taken oath to defend the interests of the federal government and they would be violating their oath if they represented the provincial government in the SFDP case.

Jha said his staff’s refusal to represent the province in a case against the federal government highlighted the need to amend the constitution.

As per the constitutional provision, even province’s chief attorneys are under the AG, but the power to hire and fire a chief attorney of province rests with the provincial government.

Jha said Article 160 (1) of the constitution  which stated that chief attorney in every province,  should be subordinate to the attorney general, had created conflict of interest for chief attorneys, particularly in cases filed by provinces against the federal government, as chief attorneys would have to defend provincial governments. “There is not a single country in the world where   chief attorneys work  under the AG, but our constitution has kept chief attorneys under the AG,” he said.

Jha added that he would represent Province 2 government in SFDP on September 11 when the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court would hear arguments from both sides - the federal and provincial governments – to decide whether the temporary stay order issued against the federal government should continue or not.

Chief Attorney of Gandaki Province RajendraGhimire said putting employees of chief attorney’s office under OAG created hindrance in the functioning of chief attorneys.

“OAG is a professional and has never interfered in our work, but when I see the constitutional provision, I see contradictions,” he said, adding, “When chief attorneys are bosses of their offices, they should be given power to mobilise their employees but the constitution does not allow this to happen. This contradiction can be rectified only by amending the constitution,” he argued. Ghimire said every chief attorney’s office needed at least three to four employees, but the OAG had not been able to send the required number of staff due to staff crunch at the federal level.

“Staff working under chief attorneys should be accountable to chief attorneys and not other offices,” he added.

Ghimire said the constitution did not give chief attorneys the prosecutorial power, but unless they were given that power, provincial governments would not be strong.