The Attorney General of India is a position enshrined in Article 76 of the Indian Constitution. The Attorney General of India is the chief legal advisor to the government of India. Furthermore, the attorney general is the principal advocate who represents the government of India in crucial matters before the Supreme Court of India. The President of India appoints the attorney general in consultation with the union cabinet. When needed, they are delegated legal work for proper representation in the court and relating to legal policy. There have been 15 attorney generals who have served the office to date. The first attorney general of India since independence was Motilal Chimanlal Setalvad. He became the first chairman of the bar council. He was also the chairman of the first law commission of India. M.C. Setalvad was the longest-serving attorney general advocating many legal developments in India. The present attorney general of India is KK Venugopal, who recently got an extension of 1 year for continuing his tenure as the attorney general.
An Overview of Attorney General of India
As discussed earlier, the attorney general is the chief legal advisor and representative of the government of India. The attorney general’s seat derives its powers and constitutionality from Article 76 of the Indian constitution.
Duties and Responsibilities
The attorney general has an inherent obligation to assist the government of India with its legal affairs. The primary function of the attorney general is to give advice to the government on crucial legal matters and expeditiously tend to all the work assigned or delegated to the attorney general.
Furthermore, the attorney general is liable to discharge any function that has been conferred on them by the Constitution or any other enactment. While upholding the concept of open courts, the Attorney General has the exclusive right of audience. This right circumnavigates the jurisdiction of all courts within the territory of India in accordance with the performance of the duties of the attorney general.
As mentioned earlier, the Attorney General has to appear and represent the Government of India in all cases and disputes, whether civil or criminal, before the apex court. But usually, the attorney general is only involved in matters that are of utmost importance. In addition, the law ministry has to be consulted before delegating or referring any legal matter to the attorney general. The attorney general further has the power to appear on behalf of the government in cases where the President seeks advisory jurisdiction of the apex court enshrined under Article 143 of the Constitution.
However, it is interesting to note that although the attorney general appears on behalf of the government; however, it does not make them a government servant. The attorney general of India has the liberty to continue his private practice. He shall not be debarred from accepting briefs from independent clients. However, there is a catch. The attorney general cannot accept a brief to represent a client against the government. Meaning that the Attorney general cannot appear in any case against the government of India. The attorney general and the solicitor general of India are the ex-officio members of the bar council of India.
As per the constitution, there is no set tenure for the Attorney General of India. Hence, through general convention, it has been presumed that the attorney general shall hold office during the pleasure of the President. This concept can be seen through the extended tenure of the present attorney general of India, KK Venugopal, through the assent of the President.
A person who is qualified to be the Judge of the Supreme Court of India is eligible to become the attorney general of India. The President makes the appointment in consultation with the cabinet ministry.
List of Attorney Generals of India
Below is the list of attorney generals of India who have served since India achieved independence and republic stature.
Name of the Attorney General
M. C. Setalvad
28.01.1950 – 01.03.1963
C. K. Daphtary
02.031963 – 30.10.1968
01.11.1968 – 31.03.1977
S. V. Gupte
01.04.1977 – 08.08.1979
L. N. Sinha
09.08.1979 – 08.08.1983
09.08.1983 – 08.12.1989
09.12.1989 – 02.12.1990
03.12.1990 – 23.11.1992
Milon K. Banerji
21.11.1992 – 8.07.1996
09.07.1996 – 06.041998
07.04.1998 – 04.06.2004
Milon K. Banerji
05.06.2004 – 07.06.2009
Goolam Essaji Vahanvati
08.06.2009 – 11.06.2014
19.06.2014 – 18.06.2017
K. K. Venugopal
01.07.2017 – (present)
Some recent instances where the attorney general has played a major role in assisting the Supreme Court
The present attorney general of India has played a major role in assisting the apex court with the evolving Indian jurisprudence. Attorney general Venugopal has played a significant role in helping the Supreme Court reach the right decision to strike down the controversial skin-to-skin POCSO judgement by the Bombay High Court.
Moreover, the Supreme Court sought the attorney general’s assistance in the matter wherein the plea was to strike down Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, pleading that it was constitutionally impermissible.
The constitution provides such powers making the attorney general the highest legal representative on behalf of the government. The points discussed in this particular note is a comprehensive overview of the importance of attorney general and how it functions seamlessly integrated into the four pillars of the constitution.