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Is the Speaker bound by opinion of the Attorney General?

July 27, 2014 11:40 IST

Rohatgi was made attorney general in June. In the past 2 months, his rulings have raised eyebrows for being in line with the political alignment of the government. Kavita Chowdhury  reports

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi's opinion to the Lok Sabha Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, that the Congress has no claim to the Leader of Opposition post has predictably raised the hackles of the Congress. Constitutional and legal experts, however, are divided over the AG's opinion. Since the time he was appointed AG, Rohatgi's legal opinions on a range of contentious issues, including the Aircel Maxis deal, have validated the views of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government.

The Speaker had sought legal opinion from the AG on Congress' claim for LOP position in the Lok Sabha. The party has only 44 MPs in the Lower House. The AG has said there is no precedence to back its case since the days of the first Lok Sabha. The Speaker is yet to take a formal decision on the issue.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, speaking to Business Standard, said, "I may like Mukul Rohatgi as a person and lawyer, but I refuse to accept that his decision is independent of the government. He was appointed by the government and sees eye to eye with what the government wants. We are no longer in the age of MC Setalvad, the first attorney general of India. Recently, AGs have bowed to the government. Asking for their opinion is a dramatic show, almost meaningless in law."

Speaking about the present LOP issue, Dhavan said, "The fact remains that various statutes require the leader of the largest party in the Lok Sabha to be treated as the LOP. This is true of the CVC Act and the RTI Act for appointment of chief information commissioners. Rohatgi's opinion cannot wash out Parliament's mandate to do this." Dhavan says the LOP position has now become a 'parliamentary institution' and it cannot be compared to the years when there was no LOP. "To make statutes like the Lok Pal and the National Human Rights Commission functional, you need an LOP."

However, former attorney general Soli Sorabjee says, "The attorney general's opinion is not binding on the Speaker. However, it gives weight to it." He maintains that "the attorney general is the first law officer and is absolutely impartial."

Rohatgi was appointed attorney general in June. Over the past two months, his rulings have raised eyebrows as they have been in line with the political alignment of the BJP-led government. Rohatgi's go ahead to the Central Bureau of Investigation to prosecute former United Progressive Alliance ally DMK's Dayanidhi Maran in the Aircel Maxis deal overruled CBI director Ranjit Sinha's view.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma on Saturday trashed Rohatgi's opinion on the LOP issue saying, "The AG's opinion is not worth the paper on which it is written. It is unfortunate that the AG has given an opinion to please his political masters. The AG is just providing an apology for the blatantly partisan approach of a confrontational government... The AG is expected to have a better understanding of law and statutes not to give such an opinion, which belittles his office."

Image: Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi