office-of-attorney-general-solicitor-general

Context: Solicitor General’s(SG) bullying in the court- calling journalists names, misleading claims about migrants need to be checked by the Court to uphold  judicial independence.

More on the news:

  • The Solicitor General’s  grandstanding in the Supreme Court on the issue of migrants crossed several lines.
  • First, the line of propriety
    • When the apex court finally took stock of the plight of  stranded migrant workers, the Solicitor 

General instead, questioned the commitment and credentials of those who are pointing to the unfolding tragedy and calling for urgent redress and accountability.

  • SG rhetorically called them prophets of doom who only spread negativity and who are not showing any courtesy to the nation. 
  • He also contrasted them with ministers working overnight. 
  • On the other hand, the fact is that it is the journalists’ focus on the arduous trek of the migrants, loss of jobs with no resources to fall back on has made their plight visible and compelled the government, and now the Court, to respond. 
    • The SG is also alleged to have made the misleading claim that there are no more migrants on the road.
  • The SG crossed yet another line when he sought to interpret to the SC itself, on the meaning of judicial independence.
    •  He said that for the critics of government, Lordships are neutral only if they abuse the executive. 
    • He went further to state that some high courts are running a parallel government in the wake of high courts being more outspoken about the humanitarian toll of the pandemic and the response to it. 

Undermining critics and interpreting Judicial Independence

  • It seems from the point of view of the SG’s outburst that in a public health emergency, any criticism of the government, from activists, journalists, Opposition, and courts, is unwelcome.
  • It also sends a signal that the Supreme Court is being pitted against the high courts.
  • As counsel for the government, it doesn’t seem proper to lecture the bench on the meaning of judicial independence. 
  • Lastly, it poses a question for the Supreme Court too,whether this kind of bullying is allowed or checked.

Attorney General

Abou

  • Article 76 provides for the office of the Attorney General for India. 
    • The Attorney General of India is the first law officer of the Government of India. 

Appointment 

  • The Attorney General is appointed by the President
  • In order to be appointed as Attorney-General of India, a person must be qualified to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court. 
  • The Constitution hasn’t explicitly fixed the term of office of the AG as well as it does not contain the procedure and grounds for his removal. 
  • He holds office during the pleasure of the President. 
  • Conventionally, he resigns when the Council of ministers resign or is replaced as he is appointed on their advice.

Mandate of Office

  • S(He) represents the Union and the States before the courts but is also allowed to take up private practice provided the other party is not the State. 
  • S(He) is not deemed as a government servant

Duties and Functions

  • The duties assigned to him are
    • To give advice to the Government of India on legal matters
    • To perform other legal duties which are referred or assigned to him by the President and
    • To discharge the functions conferred on him by the Constitution or any other law.
  • In this regard, The president has assigned the following duties to the AG
    • To represent the Government of India in the SC/any High Court in all cases concerning the Government of India.
    • To represent the Government of India in any reference made by the president to the SC in accordance with Article 143 of the Constitution.

Solicitor General

About

  • The Attorney-General is assisted by two Solicitors General and four Additional Solicitors-General. 
    • There is a point to take special note of the fact that only the office of the AG is created by the Constitution
    • It means that Article 76 of the Constitution does not mention the solicitor general and additional solicitor general in an explicit manner.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Advice the government.
  • Appear on behalf of the government in courts.
  • To represent the Government of India in any reference made by the president to the SC in accordance with Article 143 of the Constitution.
  • Discharge other functions as required.

Judicial Independence

About 

  • The judiciary stands between the citizen and the State as a rampart against misuse or abuse of power by the executive.
    • So, it becomes an absolute necessity  for the judiciary to be free from executive pressure or influence that has been provided in various provisions of the Constitution.
    • For the judiciary to be independent and impartial to serve the constitutional goals, the Judges need to act fairly, reasonably, free of any fear and favor.
    • Independence is not limited only from executive pressure or influence, but also from any other pressure and prejudices. 
  • It has many dimensions, fearlessness of other power centres, economic or political
    • Impartiality, independence, fairness and reasonableness in decision-making are the hallmarks of the judiciary. 
    • If impartiality is the soul of the judiciary, independence is its lifeblood
    • Without independence, impartiality cannot thrive. It is the independence of judicial thought.
 

Constitutional Provision

  • The Constitution of India, unlike the USA, does not follow the doctrine of Separation of Powers.
    • But it has been reiterated in many cases that the independence of the judiciary is a basic part of the constitution.
  • Another one for e.g. Judges do not hold their offices at the pleasure of the President
    • In other words, they cannot be arbitrarily removed by the government once they are appointed, and can only be impeached by a special majority of both houses (Article 124(4)) of Parliament only on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
    • Therefore, Judges enjoy security of tenure while holding office, which is essential for maintaining judicial independence.
  • Also, the salaries, allowances, and pensions are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India that are not subject to the vote of Parliament.

Propriety

Definition

  • It means conformity to established standards of morals and appropriateness for the purpose or circumstances; suitability, correctness . It is a must have attribute of those in public service.

Core principles: 

  • Integrity, Openness, Objectivity, Honesty, Selflessness

Examples 

  • The Statement of Judicial Values that sets high benchmarks for judicial behavior in line with propriety.
  • The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behavior expected of all civil servants like Civil servants should not abuse office and official power.
  • Auditors and companies also have to comply with propriety. E.g. Satyam Computer Services Ltd was in the news for overlooking best practices.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/tushar-mehta-solicitor-general-supreme-court-migrant-crisis-6433668/