“The Attorney General is the chief legal adviser and lawyer of the Government of India.” Discuss. [UPSC 2019]

Ans.

The Constitution under Article 76 has provided for the office of the Attorney-General for India (AGI). He is appointed by the President and holds the office during the pleasure of the President. He must be a person who is qualified to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court.

As the chief legal adviser of the Government of India, the Attorney-General has the following duties:

  • To give advice to the Government of India on legal matters, which are referred to him by the President.
  • To perform other duties of a legal character that are assigned to him by the President.
  • To discharge the functions conferred on him by the Constitution or any other law.

The AGI is the highest law officer in the country and acts as the lawyer of the Government of India. Through a notification of 1950, he has been assigned the following duties by the President:

  • To appear on behalf of the Government of India in the Supreme Court and high courts.
  • To represent the Government of India in any reference made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution.

Along with these duties, the AGI also has the right of audience in all courts in the territory of India. He also enjoys all the privileges and immunities that are available to a member of Parliament.

However, the Attorney-General is not the full-time counsel of the Government. He does not fall in the category of government servants and he is not debarred from private legal practice. But, he should not advise or hold a brief against the Government of India and he should not defend accused persons in criminal prosecutions without the permission of the Government of India.

Thus, the duties and privileges of the AGI, combined with the limitations imposed on him, make him the chief legal adviser and lawyer of the Government of India. Nevertheless, the separate law minister in the Central cabinet to look after legal matters at the government level, to some extent, gives the office of AGI a subordinate position.

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