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'Don’t bypass us and seek legal opinion from AG', Law Ministry says

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    The Law Ministry has cautioned central ministries not to bypass it and seek a legal opinion from the Attorney General directly. The ministry has asserted that it should not be bypassed while asking for advice from law officers.

    Law Secretary Suresh Chandra

    In a strongly-worded letter, Law Secretary Suresh Chandra has said that ministries should avoid "impropriety" by approaching the AG directly.

    The letter comes months after the then AG Mukul Rohatgi had urged the government to junk a rule which bars him from giving legal advice to various ministries without involving the Law Ministry, saying it delays decision-making on important matters.

    "All the ministries/departments are again requested that while seeking legal advice, they should follow the procedure to as to avoid illegality/impropriety on account of jurisdictional error or procedural impropriety... The law officers are also requested that in cases other than sub-judice matters, opinion/advice to central government ministries/departments/PSUs may not be tendered without getting a reference from the Law Ministry," the letter issued in March said.

    Citing delays as the main reason for his request to let him give opinions directly, Rohatgi had also said the rule which requires law officers to give legal opinion to various central ministries and departments only when the issue is referred to them by the Law Ministry runs contrary to constitutional provisions.

    In his letter to the government, Rohatgi had said various ministries, departments and even ministers have declined to route their requests for his legal opinion through the Law Ministry due to the urgency of the matter. He had said if every such proposal was routed through the Law Ministry, the entire work would come to a grinding halt and no urgent remedial measure could be taken since the Law Ministry takes its own time.

    From time to time, successive law secretaries have been urging law officers against bypassing the Law Ministry while giving legal opinions to central ministries, departments and PSUs. But Law Ministry officials admitted that ministries prefer approaching the law officers directly to cut down on the red tape.

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