Attorney General of India: Complete Details

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In this article, learn the complete details about the Attorney General of India, including their role, functions, and limitations. Additionally, discover other crucial facts about the Attorney General (AG), such as the differences between the AG of India and the USA, the list of AGs until 2024, and many more facts.

Introduction

The Attorney General for India serves as the principal legal advisor to the Government of India and acts as its primary legal representative in the Supreme Court of India.

The President of India appoints this significant role by Article 76(1) of the Constitution, and the tenure is at the discretion of the President.

The person selected for this position must fulfill qualifications equivalent to those required for a Supreme Court Judge.

This entails having a judicial background, either as a high court judge for a minimum of five years or as a practicing advocate in a high court for at least ten years.

Alternatively, the President may designate an individual as eligible based on their status as an eminent jurist.

Currently, R. Venkataramani holds the esteemed position of Attorney General for India.

Significance of the Position

The Attorney General of India holds a pivotal role in the Indian Judiciary for several compelling reasons:

Chief Legal Advisor

  • The Attorney General serves as the chief legal advisor to the Government of India, providing counsel on all legal matters.

Primary Government Lawyer

  • As the principal lawyer, the Attorney General represents the Union Government in both the Supreme Court and the High Court of India.

Upholding the Rule of Law

  • The Attorney General plays a vital role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring government adherence to the Constitution.

Legal Duties

  • The Attorney General’s duties encompass advising the Government on referred legal matters, performing other legal tasks assigned by the President, and executing functions conferred by the Constitution or other laws.

Representation in Court

  • In all cases concerning the Government of India, the Attorney General appears as its representative in the Supreme Court.

Participation in Parliamentary Proceedings

  • The Attorney General has the right to speak and participate in the proceedings of either House, joint sittings, or parliamentary committees.

These multifaceted roles and responsibilities underscore the indispensability of the Attorney General in the effective functioning of the Indian Judiciary.

Historical Background

The inception of the position of the Attorney General in India dates back to the enforcement of the Constitution of India on January 26, 1950.

The guidelines for this role are explicitly laid out in Article 76 of the Constitution.

The first Attorney General of India was M.C. Setalvad, who served from January 28, 1950, to March 1, 1963.

Since then, this esteemed position has been held by several distinguished jurists. As of October 1, 2022, the Attorney General is R. Venkataramani.

Throughout the years, the Attorney General’s role has adapted to India’s evolving legal and political landscape. Nonetheless, the fundamental responsibilities outlined by the Constitution have remained constant.

These encompass offering legal advice to the Government of India, representing the Union Government in legal proceedings, and participating in parliamentary activities.

The evolution of the Attorney General’s position mirrors the dynamic nature of India’s legal system, illustrating ongoing endeavors to uphold the rule of law in the country.

List of Attorney Generals in India

The first Attorney General of India was appointed on 28 January 1950 under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The last and incumbent Attorney General of India is R. Venkataramani, appointed on 1 October 2022. Here is a table of all the 14th Attorneys General of India:

SL.No.Attorney GeneralTenureDays in OfficePrime Minister
1Motilal Chimanlal Setalvad28 January 1950 – 1 March 196313 years, 32 daysJawaharlal Nehru
2Chander Kishan Daphtary2 March 1963 – 30 October 19685 years, 242 daysLal Bahadur Shastri
3Niren De1 November 1968 – 31 March 19778 years, 150 daysIndira Gandhi
4S. V. Gupte1 April 1977 – 8 August 19792 years, 129 daysMorarji Desai
5Lal Narayan Sinha9 August 1979 – 8 August 19833 years, 364 daysCharan Singh, Indira Gandhi
6Keshava Parasaran9 August 1983 – 8 December 19896 years, 121 daysRajiv Gandhi
7Soli Jehangir Sorabjee9 December 1989 – 2 December 1990358 daysV. P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar
8G. Ramaswamy3 December 1990 – 23 November 19921 year, 356 daysP. V. Narasimha Rao
9Milon Kumar Banerji24 November 1992 – 8 July 19963 years, 227 daysP. V. Narasimha Rao
10Ashok Desai9 July 1996 – 6 April 19981 year, 272 daysH. D. Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral
(7) Re-AppointedSoli Jehangir Sorabjee7 April 1998 – 4 June 20046 years, 58 daysAtal Bihari Vajpayee
(9) Re-AppointedMilon Kumar Banerji5 June 2004 – 7 June 20095 years, 3 daysManmohan Singh
11Goolam Essaji Vahanvati8 June 2009 – 11 June 20145 years, 3 daysManmohan Singh
12Mukul Rohatgi19 June 2014 – 18 June 20172 years, 364 daysNarendra Modi
13Kotayan Katankot Venugopal1 July 2017 – 30 September 20225 years, 91 daysNarendra Modi
14R. Venkataramani1 October 2022 – Incumbent1 year and 161days (As of 11 March 2024)Narendra Modi

Key Findings

Here are some of the most important key findings about the Attorney General of India list.

  • First Attorney General of India: Motilal Chimanlal Setalvad
  • Current Attorney General of India: R. Venkataramani
  • Total Number Attorney General as of 2024: 14 Attorney General
  • Total Term completed by All Attorney General of India as of 2024: 16th Term
  • Re-appointed Attorney General of India: Soli Jehangir Sorabjee and Milon Kumar Banerji
  • The Attorney General with the longest tenure was Motilal Chimanlal Setalvad who served for 4,880 days. (13 years, 32 days)
  • The shortest-serving Attorney General of India was Soli Jehangir Sorabjee, who served for 358 days in his first term.
  • The Prime Minister with the most Attorney Generals served under them was Narendra Modi with 3 Attorney Generals.
  • On average, the Attorney Generals served for 1539.07 days.

Appointment and Qualifications

🔶 Appointment Process

The President appoints the Attorney General of India on the advice of the Council of Ministers. The appointment process and qualifications are outlined in Article 76 of the Indian Constitution.

🔶 Qualifications necessary for the position

Here are the key qualifications for the position of Attorney General of India:

  • The appointee should be an Indian Citizen.
  • They must have either completed 5 years in a High Court of any Indian state as a judge or 10 years in a High Court as an advocate.
  • The President may also consider an eminent jurist for the position.

🔶 Tenure of Attorney General of India

The Indian Constitution doesn’t specify the tenure of the Attorney General of India. Also, the Constitution does not contain the procedure and grounds for his removal.

The Attorney General holds office at the choice of the President, who can remove them at any time. This is similar to the Prime Minister, Council of Ministers, and Governors of the States. 

The Attorney General can also resign by submitting their resignation to the President.

Traditionally, his resignation occurs when the government (council of ministers) steps down or undergoes a replacement, as his appointment is based on its counsel.

Functions and Roles

Role and Functions of Attorney General of India

Advisory Role

  • Advise the Government of India on legal matters referred to them.
  • Perform other legal duties as assigned by the President.

Constitutional Right

  • Granted the right of audience in all Courts in India under Article 88 of the Constitution.
  • Has the right to participate in parliamentary proceedings, excluding voting rights.

Representation in Courts

  • Appears on behalf of the Government of India in all Supreme Court cases, including suits, appeals, and other proceedings.
  • Represents the Government of India in references made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution.

Limitation

Non-Membership in Central Cabinet

  • The Attorney General is not a member of the Central Cabinet.
  • Legal issues at the federal level are typically handled by a distinct Law Minister in the Central Cabinet.

Restrictions to Avoid Conflict of Interest

  • Should not offer advice or file a statement against the Indian government.
  • Refrain from advising any Government of India ministry, department, statutory organization, or public sector enterprise unless the request comes through the Ministry of Law and Justice’s Department of Legal Affairs.

Part-Time Role

  • The Attorney General does not serve as a full-time legal advisor to the government.
  • Not considered a member of the government service.

Private Legal Practice

  • Not prohibited from practicing law privately.
  • Can engage in private legal practice alongside the role of the Attorney General.

Criminal Proceedings Representation

  • Should not represent anyone accused in criminal proceedings without the consent of the Government of India.

Corporate Positions

  • Should not accept a position as a director in any company or corporation without the government of India’s consent.

Current Attorney General of India

R. Venkataramani is the current Attorney General of India. Here is a quick overview of him:

NameR. Venkataramani
Position14th Attorney-General for India
IncumbentYes
Assumed Office1 October 2022
Appointed byDroupadi Murmu
Preceded byK. K. Venugopal
Born13 April 1950 (age 73)
Place of BirthPuducherry, French India

Experience

  • Legal practice of 42 years in the Supreme Court.
  • Enrolled in the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu in July 1977.
  • Joined the chambers of PP Rao, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court in 1979.
  • Set up an independent practice in the Supreme Court in 1982.
  • Designated as Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court in 1997.
  • Served as a Member of the Law Commission in 2010 and 2013.

Areas of Practice

  • Constitutional law
  • Law of indirect taxes
  • Human rights law
  • Civil and criminal law
  • Consumer law
  • The law relating to services

Representations

  • Represented the Central Government, several State Governments, Universities, and Public Sector Undertakings in major Supreme Court and High Courts litigations.
  • Represents the Supreme Court in matters concerning its employees.

International Engagements

  • Invited to speak at a workshop jointly organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva in 2001.
  • Involved with the International Court of Justice in activities in the Afro-Asian region, particularly about ICESCR (International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), 1966.
Current Attorney General of India
Current Attorney General of India- R. Venkataramani

AG of India vs. AG of the United States

Here’s a comparison table between the Attorney General of India and the Attorney General of the United States:

AspectAttorney General of IndiaAttorney General of the United States
Role and AuthorityAdvises the Government of India on legal matters.Head of the U.S. Department of Justice, chief law officer of the federal government.
Executive AuthorityHas no executive authority.Part of the executive branch and has executive authority over the Department of Justice.
Legal RepresentationRepresents the Government of India in legal matters.Represents the U.S. government in legal matters and is the chief lawyer of the federal government.
Right of AudienceRight of audience in all Indian courts and Parliament (no voting rights).Represents the U.S. government in federal legal matters, including court appearances.
Private Legal PracticeNot debarred from private legal practice.Typically, the Attorney General refrains from private practice during their term.
Criminal ProceedingsRestricted from representing accused parties in criminal proceedings without government consent.Represents the U.S. government in criminal cases and oversees federal prosecutors.
Directorial Roles in CompaniesRestricted from assuming a directorial role in a company without government consent.No specific restrictions on holding directorial roles in companies.
Assistance from Other OfficialsAssisted by a Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor Generals.Assisted by Deputy Attorneys General, Associate Attorneys General, and other officials.
Consultation ProcessConsulted only in legal matters of real importance after the Ministry of Law has been consulted.Appointed by the President and advises the President on legal matters.
References and ConsultationReferences made to the Attorney General are made by the Law Ministry.Consulted by government officials, including the President, on various legal issues.

R. Venkataramani On the New Criminal Laws

the government of India officially announced the implementation of three recently enacted criminal laws, which started on July 1.

  • Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023
  • The Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023
  • The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023

These three new criminal laws are set to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and CrPC, respectively. 

In This Context, the current Attorney General of India quoted the following:

“Whatever we do in the field of law it’s for the betterment of the people… the Parliament looks at various aspects either selective or broad. Looking at a paradigm shift that we call in science, a paradigm means a framework of thought, from one side to another, from Newton to Einstein… This paradigm shift is important and as a society, we move from old habits and develop new modern habits; I think there is an important shift in our criminal law and our administration of justice in general.”

FAQs on Attorney General of India

Q1. Who is the present attorney general of India?

R. Venkataramani (14th Attorney-General for India)

Q2. Who appoints the attorney general of India?

The President of India appoints the Attorney General of India on the advice of the Union Cabinet.

Q4. What is the tenure of India’s attorney general?

The Constitution does not specify their term of office; they serve at the pleasure of the President.

Q5. How many attorney generals are there in India?

As of 2024, a total of 14 Attorney Generals have been appointed.

Q6. Who is the first law officer in India?

The Attorney-General of India

Q7. Who is the second Law officer in India?

Solicitor General of India

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