PUCL Bulletin, Sept., 2002

Press Release, UP PUCL
Attorney General's appearance in court in "personal capacity" was improper

India's Attorney General, Sorabjee should not have played the contradictory role of "running with the bear and hunting with the hound" said here today High Court's senior advocate and president of the U.P. Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Ravi Kiran Jain.

He was referring to the recent stand taken by Sorabjee during the hearing of a significant case before an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court on the right of minorities in India under Article 30 of the Constitution to run their own educational institutions.

Since the Attorney General did not agree with the view of the government that the right of the minorities to run education institutions was restricted, he abstained from arguing in support of the government's stand before the Supreme Court. So, in his place, Solicitor General, Salve was asked to put forward the arguments before the apex court in support of the Union government's stand on minority institutions.

Nonetheless, Sorabjee appeared before the apex court bench and put forth his arguments on what he strongly felt in his "personal capacity" about the value, which must be placed on the right guaranteed by Article 30 to the minorities to administer educational institutions of "their choice."

Ravi Kiran Jain pointed out that the post of the Attorney General was a constitutional post, having been created by Article 76 of the Constitution and under Article 88 he has "the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceeding of either house, any joint sitting of the houses, and any Committee of Parliament of which he may be named and member." It was incumbent upon the Attorney General under Article 76 (2) of the Constitution "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 government. In other words, Jain said, Attorney General Sorabjee was bound by the Constitution to place before the apex court the Union government's views on the "real character" of the right guaranteed to the minorities to run educational institutions.

If Sorabjee felt for the reason of his own legal conscience that be did not support the government's view and could not argue in its favour before the court, he should have resigned the post of the Attorney General in tune with the best traditions maintained by the bar and they should have appeared before the court. According to the practice and the tradition Attorney General resigns with the change of the government, said Ravi Kiran Jain.

Either Sorabjee has to perform the Constitutional obligations of being the Attorney General or he has to decline to perform these obligations, and in the latter case, he has no other option than to quit, said Jain. It is strange that being the Constitutional head of the government on its legal side, Sorabjee kept himself off his role to argue the government's case before the apex court on a Constitutional issue, and in his place, the Solicitor General, who does not hold a Constitutional post, was asked by the Government to represent its viewpoint on the minority rights before the 11-judge bench, remarked Jain.
Jain said that Sorabjee has been able to keep government happy by not resigning on the issue, and also, he has been able to please the minorities by expressing his personal views on the issue before the court.

But by doing so, he has compromised the Constitutional, ethical and moral sanctity which goes with the office of the Attorney General. Such a double game being played by the Attorney General was, to say the least, deplorable, remarked Jain, adding that probably Sorabjee might get soon the reward he has bargained for with the government an ambassadorship abroad, which be has been targeting for same time. -- Allahabad, July 31, 2002

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