Mukul Rohatgi, AGEa lawyer known for his candid arguments and succinct submissions will return as India’s Attorney General from Oct. 1.
Also read:Mukul Rohatgi Becomes Attorney General Again
This will be Rohatgi’s second term as the country’s most senior law official. The BJP-led NDA government chose him as AG shortly after it came to power in 2014. He remained in office until 2017 before veteran lawyer KK Venugopal took over. Venugopal’s third renewal as AG will end on September 30.
The son of a former Delhi Supreme Court judge, Rohatgi, 67, was appointed senior counsel in 1993 and later appointed as additional solicitor general in 1999. His first term at the Center’s law firm ended with the change of government in May 2004. In his capacity as ASG during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, Rohatgi represented the government in the Supreme Court in 2002 in the Gujarat riots and fake meeting cases.
After a thriving private practice in the Supreme Court and High Courts of Delhi and Bombay, Rohatgi agreed to become the Modi government’s first AG when a challenge to the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) raged in the highest court.
Rohatgi failed to defend the law, but he certainly caused a stir in court with his frequent attacks on the collegium system of appointing judges without saying words as arguments in the case followed in 2015. He even told the five judges about the bench that the college operated on the principle “You scratch my back and I scratch yours”. Rohatgi went ahead and submitted a ten-page list of names pushed by the college, despite concerns signaled by unfavorable intelligence reports and critical comments from his own judges — but to no avail.
The next major case that Rohatgi appeared before the Center was that of Aadhaar, in which the senior lawyer again made headlines by arguing that a person has no absolute authority over their body and that there was no recognized right to privacy under the constitution. His statement completely changed the course of the case and a bench of nine judges had to be set up to decide on the nature of privacy rights. More than 700 days after Rohatgi’s astonishing statement, the matter was finally settled with the constitutional bench that unanimously ruled in August 2017 that privacy is a fundamental right in India. However, when the case was finally argued in the highest court, it was Rohatgi’s successor KK Venugopal who faced the formidable row of nine judges.
Some of Rohatgi’s great triumphs as AG came when he argued on behalf of the Center seeking the invalidation of triple talaq, defending the validity of the criminal defamation law and challenging criminal charges against security forces for alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur and playing the national anthem for movies in theaters.
After his tenure as AG, Rohatgi became a much sought-after lawyer, representing state governments, politicians, industrialists, large corporations and individuals fighting for freedom.
In 2018, the government of Maharashtra appointed Rohatgi as special prosecutor in Judge BH Loya’s death case, successfully clearing a blank slate for the state government. He also represented the Maharashtra government in its effort to defend the Maratha quota law, which was ultimately deemed unconstitutional. He has also acted for the governments of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh.
Rohatgi appeared before Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in the murder trial of former Punjab chief Beant Singh, to plead for Rajoan’s pardon. He successfully represented journalists Arnab Goswami and Rajdeep Sardesai, Congresswoman Shashi Tharoor, cartoonist Rachita Taneja, creative head of Amazon Prime (India) Aparna Purohit, in cases involving hate speech and hurtful religious feelings.
Rohatgi has appeared regularly on Facebook and WhatsApp before the Delhi Supreme Court and Supreme Court, where a series of challenges related to various government policies are currently pending.
Rohatgi recently appeared before former Jharkhand Prime Minister Hemant Soren, former Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia, former Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana, former Mumbai Police Commissioners Parambir Singh and Sanjay Pandey, real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal, the Future Group in the Amazon Vs Future saga. He also got bail for Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan, in a drug case.
The senior counsel loves to travel and is the proud owner of a fleet of supercars. He is an art connoisseur and his personal collection includes paintings by several famous artists including XXXXXX, XXXXXX and XXXXX. Rohatgi likes historical books, as well as light thrillers from authors like Jeffrey Archer.