LAHORE - The Punjab government has appointed Additional Advocate General Asma Hamid as acting advocate general in blatant violation of the Constitution and the Lahore High Court orders, The Nation has learnt reliably.

Sources said the appointment of Asma Hamid had caused serious disappointment among the senior law officers serving the departments for years. The Punjab Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department issued two notifications and failed to determine whether the provincial law secretary or Asma Hamid could look after the matters of the advocate general office.

The government, in the first notification, appointed Asma Hamid as an acting advocate general. “Asma Hamid, additional advocate general Punjab shall attend the meetings taken by the chief minister or any other meetings of the government if her presence was required,” said the notification.

In another notification, senior member of Board of Revenue, Punjab, the P&D chairman, all administrative secretaries and the Punjab Assembly secretary were directed to have liaison with the office of the advocate general through the law secretary.

In the absence of a permanent advocate general, private lawyers, Khawaja Haris and Mustafa Ramday, were hired by the Punjab government in many cases, said the sources. To defend the Orange Line project, the Punjab government hired Advocate Khawaja Haris against hefty amount of Rs 13.5 million, they further said.

It is the first time in the country’s history that a woman has been given the charge to “look after” the office against merit and orders of the Lahore High Court.

In 2014, a full bench, headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, clearly mentioned in a 34-page detailed judgment that an acting charge could not be given to any officer to hold the office of the advocate general, Punjab.

“The provincial government has not only ignored the constitutional mandate but also has circumvented the Constitution to appoint a person to look after the work of the advocate general,” the judgment said.

The judgment further said, “Article 140 does not permit to appoint a surrogate advocate general to look after the work of the office of the advocate general. No such post exists under the Constitution. The said appointment amounts to playing fraud on the Constitution and on the people of the province.”

It said, “ Filling of a constitutional post, in the absence of any constitutional timeframe, can be conveniently benchmarked against the timeframe required to fill the office of the President, which if falls vacant has to be filled within a period of thirty days from the occurrence of the vacancy in terms of Article 41 (5) of the Constitution. Even though the process of appointing the President is far more circuitous and cannot be compared with the appointment of an advocate general, still the maximum period that can be read in Article 140 is 30 days.”

It also stated, “We hope the provincial government of today and of the future will learn to honour, revere and respect the Constitution and the obligations it casts upon them. It is also hoped the provincial government will strongly desist from entrusting constitutional offices to ad-hoc and surrogate appointees.”

It would be a contempt of court if the Punjab government fails to appoint a permanent advocate general.

“An impartial and capable person should immediately be appointed as an advocate general,” said Advocate Azhar Siddique. He said the appointment should be made purely on merit. He said, “The Punjab government should constitute a commission for the appointment of an advocate general because it is a constitutional post.”