R Venkataramani, who is set to take over as the new Attorney General of India from October 1 for a period of three years, is known for his integrity in the legal fraternity. “Invariably soft-spoken, humble, patient and a man of few words,” is how the Supreme Court Bar would describe him.
Venkataramani, who has over four decades of practice in the Supreme Court, has handled wide range of cases. Recently, he appeared for the Karnataka government in the matter concerning right to wear hijab in educational institutions. He has also been at the forefront of execution of the Amrapali housing projects since his appointment in July 2019 as a court receiver to manage the day-to-day affairs of the bankrupt real estate company and its several incomplete projects.
The senior lawyer also appeared in the Ayodhya temple issue representing “Ram Lalla” and has been also a prominent lawyer in the Krishna-Godavari river water dispute.
“Venkataramani has a wide range of interests and is well-informed in various aspects of law. While being religious and extremely ritualistic, he has a secular outlook,” says a senior lawyer, who is one of his close friends. “He has been doing useful work for young advocates, including setting papers for Advocate-on Record examinations,” says senior lawyer Arvind Datar.
Lawyer Ashok Panigrahi, who worked with Venkataramani in his chambers, says the new AG had been a jurist all through his life in whatever matter he was engaged in. “Till late night, we would see him looking into law books and commentaries himself. He would have a list of citations written on a small piece of paper and at times on flag marks made out of paper.”
Says senior counsel G Umapathy, “I have briefed him in many tax matters besides river water disputes. He is a down-to earth man.”
Venkataramani, 72, is a voracious reader who keeps a large library of a wide variety of books. “Booksellers often approach him for approvals and forewords,” say a lawyer close to him.
A student of Physics from Loyola College, Pondicherry, Venkatramani went on to study law from the Pondicherry law college under eminent Prof NR Madhava Menon, who he considers his “guru.” He enrolled as a lawyer in 1977 in the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu.
Since his father had doubts if he could continue in the profession, Venkataramani for a brief period took up a law officer’s job in a private company in Kerala. It’s only after his father’s demise, he returned to the law practice and joined as public prosecutor in Pondicherry. He joined the chambers of late Constitutional expert PP Rao at the SC in 1979. He started his independent practice in the SC in 1982, and was designated as a senior advocate by the apex court in 1997.
Venkataramani was also appointed as a member, Law Commission of India in 2010 and reappointed for a second term in 2013. He was a co-opted member of the expert group constituted by the Union ministry of minority affairs in 2007 to determine the structure and functions of an ‘Equal Opportunity Commission’.
Several publications to his credit include the noted books — “Land Reforms,” and “Judgements of Justice O Chinnappa Reddy.”
Venkataramani’s wife Vijayalakshmi and his younger son are lawyers and his eldest son is a computer engineer working abroad. He loves poetry and classical music.