SENIOR LAWYER Mukul Rohatgi, whose persuasiveness has solved many cases for his government and private clients, is likely to return as the next Attorney General (AG).
Sources familiar with the matter said the government, seeking names to succeed the current AG, KK Venugopal, has appointed Rohatgi to the constitutional office.
Venugopal, who is on his third extension, had told the government he did not want to remain in office after Sept. 30 when the term expires, the sources said.
Venugopal, 91, succeeded Rohatgi for three years in July 2017 as the 15th AG for India. When his tenure ended in 2020, Venugopal requested that he be removed from office, citing his advanced age. However, the government requested him to continue and continued to extend his term in office.
When appointed, it will be Rohatgi’s second term as AG. His first term in office was from June 2014 to June 2017.
Mukul Rohatgi, son of former Delhi Supreme Court Justice Judge Awadh Behari Rohatgi, was appointed Additional Solicitor General in 1999, when the late AB Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. He then represented the government of Gujarat in the 2002 riot cases in the Supreme Court and was appointed an AG when the government of Narendra Modi took office in 2014.
As an AG, Rohatgi defended, albeit unsuccessfully, the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act and the 99th Constitutional Amendment, which provided for the creation of the National Judicial Commission to appoint Supreme Court and High Court judges.
In the Aadhaar case on the use of biometric data, Rohatgi as an AG caused a furore with his position that an individual does not have an absolute right to his or her body.
After being succeeded by Venugopal as AG, Rohatgi appeared before hotelier Keshav Suri in the highest court in 2018, challenging the constitutionality of Article 377, which criminalized same-sex crimes. Citing the example of Shikhandi of Mahabharata and the concept of Ardhanareeswara, he argued that sexual orientation is natural and innate to one’s identity.
He was also appointed special prosecutor in the case of the death of Judge BH Loya in the Supreme Court. The SC then rejected the petitions to request an investigation into the death. He also unsuccessfully defended the Maharashtra law which introduced quotas for jobs and admissions for the Maratha community.
The senior lawyer’s client list also included Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, who was facing allegations of illegal mining allotments; NDTV promoters Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy, in a case involving the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI); and Republic TV founder Arnab Goswami after his arrest by Maharashtra police.
He appeared before the SC-founded SIT opposing the petition filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, who was killed in the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
He recently represented the government of Uttar Pradesh to oppose a petition challenging the sanction’s denial to prosecute Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath in a 2007 case for allegedly making an inflammatory speech.
In 2018, he was also appointed as a member of the “eminent jurist” in the Lokpal selection committee chaired by the Prime Minister.