For the last over two weeks the issue of appointment of the country’s top law officer and his team is a subject matter of intense speculation. While the appointment of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi as Attorney General (AG) was considered a done deal, the Narendra Modi-led NDA government seems to be having second thoughts on appointing him.
The reason, sources say, is a strongly-worded letter that eminent lawyer and former Union law minister Ram Jethmalani has written to the Prime Minister, opposing the move to appoint Rohatgi.
“Yes, I have written to the Prime Minister, asking him to not appoint Rohatgi to the post. I have asked Modi to not appoint anybody who is opposed to the move to bring back black money from foreign accounts to any post. It will send a wrong signal since one of the major reasons for the electoral victory of the BJP was the reluctance of the previous government to take effective steps to bring back black money,” Jethmalani told The Indian Express on the phone from London.
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It is learnt that after receiving Jethmalani’s letter, Modi has sought some clarifications on the issue and a final decision will be taken later.
Incidentally, Rohatgi had himself told a section of the media a few days ago that he had “given his consent” to the government for appointment as AG. But, since then there has been no official word on the issue, with the government initiating the process for appointment of senior advocate Ranjit Kumar as Solicitor General (SG) and five other senior advocates as additional solicitors general (ASG).
Jethmalani, a Rajya Sabha MP, was expelled from the BJP in 2012 after he wrote to the then party president Nitin Gadkari, accusing party leaders of being “silent” on the issue of “huge corruption” by the previous UPA-II government. Even though his relationship with the party remains stormy, Jethmalani was one of the strongest backers of Modi in the run-up to the general elections. He is also one of the petitioners in the PIL in the Supreme Court on the issue of alleged black money stashed abroad by individuals and corporates.
Rohtagi is considered close to the BJP leadership and has represented the previous Gujarat government headed by Narendra Modi in the Supreme Court in many 2002 Gujarat riot and fake encounter death cases, including the Best Bakery and Zahira Sheikh cases.
When asked, a senior government functionary said a final decision would be taken soon. He, however, asserted there was no decision to not appoint Rohatgi.