NEW DELHI: Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi appeared in the Supreme Court on Friday for owners of four-star bars in Kerala in their appeal against the Kerala High Court verdict that upheld the liquor policy of the State government and sparked off a debate.
The case assumes significance as the senior-most lawyer of the Centre appeared for petitioners challenging the policy of the State. The AG claimed to have obtained permission from the government to appear for the bar owners.
The AG argued that the government’s liquor policy had adversely affected the liquor industry in the State. The court deferred the hearing. The AG appeared in the court questioning the conditions set by the Kerala government in its liquor policy which was intended to reduce liquor consumption in the State.
Mukul Rohatgi had appeared for bar owners earlier too. However, this is the first time that he is appearing for them after assuming the office of the AG. Despite the powers of the government to relax the provisions of the rules in appropriate cases, it is pertinent to note that only last year the Centre had asked law officers, including the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, to refrain from taking up private legal cases as it would dilute focus from government litigation.
The Law Ministry has said permission for taking up private cases could be sought only in compelling situations as their primary role is to defend the government in courts. It specifically asked the law officers to restrain from seeking permission to appear in private cases and said such requests should only be made for compelling reasons and in exceptional circumstances. It is strange how the government has permitted the AG to appear for a private litigant. The permission granted to the AG on behalf of bar owners seems all the more indefensible given the fact that Article 47 of the Constitution mandates the State to implement a prohibition policy.