Attorney General of India
Role, power and functions of Attorney General of India (AGI)
Recently, the central government has extended the term of K.K. Venugopal as Attorney General (AG) for one more year.
“The Attorney-General is the principal legal adviser and lawyer of the Government of India.” Elaborate.
Attorney-General (AG) of India:
● Article 76 of the Indian Constitution prescribes for the office of the Attorney- General of India.
● He is the Government’s first Law Officer.
● The Attorney-General is selected by the President of India and remains in the office till the pleasure of the President.
● In order to be appointed as the Attorney General of India, a person should have qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
● The Attorney General is not a full-time advisor for the Government. He does not fall in the group of government servants. Further, he is not excluded from private legal practice.
● The appointment of the Attorney General is a political appointment and hence, whenever there is a change in the party in power, the Attorney-General resigns from his post to facilitate the new government to appoint a nominee of its choice.
● He cannot defend an accused in the criminal proceedings and accept the directorship of a company without the permission of the Government.
● The Attorney-General is aided by two Solicitors-General and four Additional Solicitors General. However, Article 76 does not talk about the solicitor general and additional solicitor general.
Functions and Responsibilities:
● To give a recommendation to the Government of India upon such legal matters, that is referred to him by the President.
● To execute such other duties of a legal character those are assigned to him by the President.
● To discharge the functions granted on him by the Constitution of India or any other law of the land.
● Further, he has the right to speak and to be included in the proceedings of both the Houses of the Parliament or any committee of the Parliament of which he may possibly be named a member, but without a right to vote.
The Attorney General performs the following functions that are assigned by the President:
● To appear in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Government of India in all cases whenever the Government of India is concerned.
● To represent the Indian government in any Supreme Court referrals made by the President of India under Article 143 of the Constitution.
● To appear in any high court (when required by the Government of India) in any case in which the Government of India is concerned.
Is the government of India a client of the AG/ Is it mandatory for the AG to defend any act of the government?
● Appointment by government: Union Cabinet decides who should be appointed the AG, what matters be referred or assigned to him for legal advice, his remuneration and lastly, whether he should continue to hold office.
● Attorney General ‘for’ India:- The Constitution does not provide for Attorney General ‘of’ India or Attorney general of the government but it provides for Attorney General ‘for’ India, which indicates that the AG’s client is not the government but rather the people of India.
● The Constitution mandates the AG to discharge the duties of the office independent of the political executive that appoints him.
● Constitutionally, a person who is qualified to be a SC judge can be appointed as the AG, which clearly demonstrates the framers intent that using his/her wisdom the AG must help and guide the government to act in accordance with the rule of law.
● Courts exercise restraint on the malafide actions of the government but all actions could not wait for approval of the courts. Hence the AG is expected to play a proactive role and as an added check against government excessiveness.
● Constitutionally, the AG and other legal officers are expected to exercise their independent judgment and provide wise counsel to the government, notwithstanding who appointed them or what advice is being expected from them.