HS Phoolka to step down as Leader of Opposition in Punjab

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AAP leader and Supreme Court lawyer HS Phoolka on Sunday decided to quit as Leader of Opposition in Punjab assembly so that he can continue to fight cases for 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims. The Delhi Bar Council had recently turned down Phoolka’s plea for permission to appear in 1984 riot victims’ cases, saying rules did not allow it as he held the post of a cabinet minister’s rank. The Leader of Opposition gets the salary and perks of around Rs 2 lakh a month.

Phoolka on Sunday suggested the names of party MLAs Sukhpal Khaira, Kanwar Sandhu and Aman Arora as his possible replacements.

“I have asked AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal to select a new leader of opposition within a week as I would be resigning in the next few days,” he told TOI.

The lawyer said he had suspended his practice after he was made Leader of Opposition, but he wanted to appear in the riot victims’ cases as he was not charging fees for this.

Hearing in these cases resumed on July 4, and 11 hearings are scheduled in this month alone.

Phoolka had also given an assurance to the Bar Council that he would not appear in any other cases.

Sources in AAP revealed that a section of Delhi-based leaders has also mooted the idea of merging the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) of MLA brothers Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh with AAP and appointing one of them as the leader of opposition.

However, Simarjit refused to comment on this but confirmed that he had suggested Khaira’s name for the post. Sources privy to the talks revealed that Bains brothers had declined the offer.

According to sources, earlier too AAP had opened talks with the Bains brothers for a merger and offered them the post of state president.

Bains brothers had declared their support to NDA’s presidential candidate Ramnath Kovind even though AAP is likely to support UPA candidate Meira Kumar.