India Today - - UPFRONT - By Da­mayanti Datta

On June 9, when at­tor­ney gen­eral Mukul Ro­hatgi hailed a Supreme Court ver­dict link­ing Aad­haar and PAN num­bers, it seemed like busi­ness as usual. Phys­i­cally im­pos­ing, Ro­hatgi spoke to the me­dia as he did in a court­room, with fire and force. No­body could have guessed that the very next day the chief le­gal ad­vi­sor to Naren­dra Modi’s gov­ern­ment would put in his pa­pers and promptly skip out of the coun­try to watch cricket in Eng­land.

“I want to re­turn to my pri­vate prac­tice,” Ro­hatgi said briefly, by way of explanation, adding that he had writ­ten to the gov­ern­ment last month to ask that his term not be re­newed. His de­ci­sion is with­out prece­dent. At­tor­ney gen­er­als are mostly the prime min­is­ter’s men, re­sign­ing only when the gov­ern­ment falls. All of In­dia’s 14 AGs, ex­cept the 12th, Milon K. Ban­erji who died on the job, and the 8th, G. Ra­maswamy, who quit over scam al­le­ga­tions, have come and gone with the flow of po­lit­i­cal cy­cles.

Why did he re­sign? Some hint that Ro­hatgi was miffed that, with the PM out of town, his con­tract was ex­tended only on an ad hoc ba­sis “un­til fur­ther or­ders”. Oth­ers say the de­feat over the Na­tional Ju­di­cial Ap­point­ments Com­mis­sion, scrapped by the SC, was an in­deli­ble blot on Ro­hatgi’s record. Still oth­ers feel the AG’s pride was wounded be­cause Har­ish Salve rep­re­sented the gov­ern­ment against Pak­istan at the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice in May.

Was Ro­hatgi too “in­de­pen­dent­minded” then, or could it be that the vast sums to be made in pri­vate prac­tice made it too un­re­mu­ner­a­tive to be the coun­try’s pre­em­i­nent lawyer? What­ever Ro­hatgi’s rea­sons, the Cen­tre finds it­self with a big hole to fill and awk­ward ques­tions to an­swer.

PRI­VATE EYE Ro­hatgi, cen­tre, with col­leagues

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