New Delhi, Feb. 4: Solicitor-general Rohinton Nariman, the second senior-most law officer of the country, today resigned amidst speculation of his differences with Union law minister Ashwani Kumar.
Known as a tough and no-nonsense law officer, Nariman is said to have fallen out with the law minister on certain grounds and tendered his resignation.
Kumar could not be contacted despite repeated efforts.
However, an aide close to Kumar said: “The resignation was purely Mr Nariman’s personal decision. The minister neither has a role in it nor has he anything to say on the issue.”
Though Nariman’s three-year tenure was to end only on July 26, 2014, he submitted his resignation after just 18 months of having been appointed to the post on July 23, 2011, in the wake of the resignation of his predecessor Gopal Subramanium.
Incidentally, Nariman’s appearance as a special senior counsel for the Union government in the 2G scam in 2011 triggered the resignation of Subramanium as solicitor-general as the latter felt hurt and submitted his resignation to the then President Pratibha Patil. Consequent to Subramanium’s resignation, Nariman, the son of eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman, was appointed to the post on July 23, 2011.
Nariman Jr., as he is known in legal circles, is an expert in tax and constitutional laws.
However, despite his brilliant articulation and arguments, the Union government lost the Rs 12,000-crore Vodafone tax dispute. In the said case, the Supreme Court had last year held that the Indian tax authorities had no territorial jurisdiction to levy tax on the company for acquiring the assets of Hutchinson at a deal concluded in Cayman Island, though the latter had assets in India.
However, it must be noted that unlike the attorney-general who holds a constitutional post under Article 76(1), the solicitor-general has no such constitutional status as he is expected to appear in important matters on behalf of the Union government and the public-sector undertakings as and when called upon. Further, states can also engage him as their counsel.
But, the attorney-general is appointed by the country’s President under Article 76(1) of the Constitution. He must be a person qualified to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court.
According to the Constitution: “It shall be the duty of the attorney-general to give advice to the government of India upon such legal matters and to perform such other duties of a legal character, as may from time to time be referred or assigned to him by the President, and to discharge the functions conferred on him by or under this Constitution or any other law for the time being in force.”
The attorney-general has the right of audience in all courts in India as well as the right to participate in the proceedings of Parliament.
Before his appointment as solicitor-general, Nariman Jr. was tipped to be elevated to the Supreme Court as a judge because of his legal eminence. According to the Supreme Court rules, eminent jurists or lawyers in the age group of 55 to 64 years can be directly elevated to the Supreme Court. There were two such instances in the early 90s when Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice Santosh Hegde were appointed as judge of the Supreme Court.