India's new Attorney General, Senior Advocate R Venkataramani: Spotlight this week

Venkataramani succeeds KK Venugopal as the country's topmost law officer even as the Supreme Court is in the midst of hearing a number of matters of constitutional importance.
Senior advocate R Venkataramani
Senior advocate R Venkataramani

Spotlight is a series where we shine the, well, spotlight on members of the legal fraternity who made the news over the past week.

With the tenure of Senior Advocate KK Venugopal coming to an end on September 30, and Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi declining to take up the position, the question of who was going to be the next Attorney General for India was much debated in legal circles. 

The clamour was quelled after the Union Ministry of Law and Justice named Senior Advocate R Venkataramani as the country’s topmost law officer.

More importantly, Venkataramani's appointment comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing a number of matters of constitutional importance, in which it will hear the Central government's stand.  

As Attorney General, Venkataramani will be responsible for advising the Central government and performing legal duties assigned by the President of India.

Who is R Venkataramani?

Venkataramani was born on April 13, 1950, in Pondicherry. He enrolled in the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu in July 1977 and moved his practice to the Supreme Court in 1979.

He was an advocate-on-record at the Supreme Court before he was designated as Senior Advocate by the top court in 1997. He also served as a member of the Law Commission of India in 2010, and again in 2013. 

The veteran lawyer was involved in the work done by the Constitution Review Commission under the Chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India MN Venkatachaliah, and had contributed to the report on setting up the Equal Opportunities Commission. 

He was also a member of the South Asian Task Force on Judiciary comprising members of SAARC nations, and submitted reports on judicial reforms.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta described Venkataramani as a “gentle” human being with no arrogance. 

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta

A fine and gentle human being with legal acumen, blended with complete lack of arrogance. He has a distinct mark as a counsel and will have a long-lasting impact in the field of law.” 

Mehta also said that he was eagerly looking forward to work with the new AG.

Senior Advocate Arvind Datar hailed Venkataramani for his efforts in guiding younger lawyers.

Senior Advocate Arvind Datar
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar

His work in organising and conducting the AOR (advocate on record) exams is really noteworthy. It requires an enormous amount of time and he is gladly giving it for the younger members of the bar,” he shared.

Writer, poet and teacher

Venkataramani has authored several books and published articles on Constitutional law concerning liberty and human rights, as well as legal education and environmental law.   

In 1990, he authored Judgements of Justice O Chinnappa Reddy, who was a former judge of the Supreme Court.

He also authored the volume on ‘Torts’ in the series of Halsbury’s Laws of India, published by Butterworths.

He has also been invited to speak on various topics by international organisations.

His association with National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, dates back to 1988. He has been a mentor in the field of law for young lawyers from various other universities.

The senior lawyer likes reading and writing poetry in his spare time.

Recent cases

Venkataramani has practiced in various legal branches, namely, Constitutional Law, indirect taxes, human rights law, civil and criminal law, consumer law, as well as service law. 

He has earlier represented the Central government and several state governments, universities and public sector undertakings in the Supreme Court and High Courts, and continues to represent the Supreme Court in matters concerning its employees.   

Mostly recently, he appeared in the hijab ban case on behalf of a teacher, who said that teachers simply wanted free interaction with students without any walls of separation and assertions of identity.

He submitted during the hearing,

I work in an environment where individual assertions of identity can be a hindrance. Only in their absence can you begin to respect them. Teachers' hands will be tied.”

Supreme Court, Hijab
Supreme Court, Hijab

In 2020, he was appointed as a court receiver by the Supreme Court, which sought his assistance in holding discussions with the Reserve Bank of India and exploring possibilities for funding Amrapali's other stalled projects.

In December 1997, he was entrusted with the Chairmanship of the Independent Monitoring Panel, constituted by the World Bank, Government of India and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), to advise on and monitor the rehabilitation of people displaced by the NTPC projects in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. 

Thanks to PM, Home and Law Minister

In a video posted following his appointment, Venkataramani thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Law Minister Kiren Rijiju for placing confidence in him.

I only wish and pray that given the assistance, I would be bestowed with from all my friends, I’ll be in a position to discharge this responsibility. As I say, without fear of favour, without ill-will and to the best of my abilities,” he added.

Venkataramani will hold the office of AG for the next three years.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news