The law officer’s team put in place in 2014 after Narendra Modi led BJP stormed to power at the Centre has seen four casualties. First to go was Mukul Rohatgi, who requested the government not to renew his engagement as Attorney General in June. He was replaced by veteran lawyer KK Venugopal.
Two additional solicitor generals, PS Patwalia and Neeraj Kishan Kaul found private practice more attractive than the law officer’s job and requested the government to relieve them of their responsibilities. The government obliged and their posts have been vacant for four months.
Now, Ranjit Kumar, who was re-engaged as solicitor general for two years in July and now he has given a reason for his resigning that his family members have health issues, which required long-term treatment. He said, “It also requires me to give more time at home, which I had not been able to do given the work pressure that is intrinsic to the office of the Solicitor General. It was impeding my time which I should have been given at home. I will return to private practice but will severely curtail my engagements in the Supreme Court and high courts.”
Asked whether he had any misunderstandings with the government or any reservations in continuing as SG, Kumar said, “I had an excellent relationship with the government and have no reason to complain.” On the talk in SC corridors about his possible appointments as an apex court judge, Kumar said, “There is no truth in these rumours.”
Kumar’s resignation, submitted to the Law ministry, will take some time to be accepted. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is away in the Bahamas to attend the Commonwealth law ministers conference. The resignation is likely to be accepted only next week.
Rumours on elevation – In Mr Kumar’s case, rumours have been floated of his name being considered for direct elevation as Supreme Court judge. If that had been the case, he would have followed Justice N. Santosh Hedge’s footsteps from being Solicitor General to judge of the Supreme Court. Lawyers, however, said there was no need for a law officer to resign if his name is being considered for the judgeship. The Supreme Court Collegium is expected to meet on October 24.
As Solicitor General, Mr Kumar had appeared for the Centre in the Cauvery river water sharing litigation in which he argued that the government, and not Supreme Court, should take the final decision on the water sharing scheme to be framed on the basis of the Cauvery Tribunal’s award.
Mr Kumar also represented the Centre in a case filed against the use of pellet guns against protestors in Jammu and Kashmir. He also took the initiative to frame school safety guidelines for students while representing the Centre in the Pradyuman Thakur murder case.
At present, there are four additional solicitor generals in the SC, Maninder Singh, Tushar Mehta, PS Narsimha and Pinky Anand. All of them were appointed in 2014 and given an extension of two years after completion of the initial three-year engagement. Two strong contenders for the post are Maninder Singh, the first additional solicitor general and Tushar Mehta who is next to him in seniority in the list of law officers. Both are handling sensitive cases in the SC, including love jihad and Rohingya Muslim immigrants respectively.