IN A surprising turn of events, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who was learnt to have earlier conveyed his willingness to the government’s request to be Attorney General of India, has declined the offer.
“True,” he told The Indian Express when asked about the development. Asked what prompted him to change his mind, Rohatgi said there was “no specific reason”, and added that he had taken the decision after “second thoughts”.
When it was pointed out that he had given his consent earlier, Rohatgi said: “That’s why I said on second thoughts. The notification is not out yet. So…”
With the current incumbent K K Venugopal’s tenure set to expire on September 30, Rohatgi, if appointed, would have been the 16th AG, his second time in the high office. He was AG from June 2014 to June 2017, before Venugopal took over.
Venugopal succeeded Rohatgi in July 2017 for three years. When his three-year tenure came to an end, 91-year old Venugopal had requested to be relieved of the post, citing his age. However, the central government requested him to continue and kept extending his tenure. On his third extension, Venugopal, indicated to the government that he did not want to remain in the office after September 30, when the term ends.
So the government scouted for other names, and picked Rohatgi, who was also in agreement.
The son of former Delhi High Court Judge Justice Avadh Behari Rohatgi, Mukul Rohatgi was appointed Additional Solicitor General in 1999 when late A B Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
He represented the Gujarat government in the Supreme Court in the 2002 riots cases. He was appointed AG when the Narendra Modi government assumed office in 2014.
As AG, Rohatgi defended, albeit unsuccessfully, the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act and the 99th Constitution Amendment, which provided for the establishment of the National Judicial Commission to appoint judges of the apex court and high courts.
In the Aadhaar case on use of biometric data, Rohatgi, as AG, set off a furore with his stand that an individual does not have absolute right over his or her body.
After Venugopal took over as AG, Rohatgi appeared for hotelier Keshav Suri in the apex court in 2018, challenging the constitutionality of Article 377 which criminalised same sex. He argued that sexual orientation is natural and innate to a person’s identity.
Rohatgi was appointed special prosecutor in the case related to the death of Judge B H Loya. The SC later dismissed the petitions seeking probe into the death.
The senior advocate has also represented Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren who faced 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 following his arrest by the Maharashtra police.
He appeared for the SC-constituted SIT opposing the petition filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
Recently, he represented the Uttar Pradesh government to oppose a petition challenging the denial of sanction to prosecute Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in a 2007 case for allegedly delivering an inflammatory speech.
In 2018, he was appointed “eminent jurist” member in the Lokpal Selection Committee chaired by the Prime Minister.
Rohatgi had also been appearing for Chhattisgarh’s Congress government, the last being on September 19, opposing the Enforcement Directorate plea seeking an independent investigation into the Nagrik Apurti Nigam (NAN) scam.