In 1991, at the age of 37 he was appointed one of the youngest Additional Solicitor General of India. He has served as Indian National Congress party's National Spokesperson and Chairman of its Vichar Vibhag. Kumar is an eminent legal counsel who has argued important cases before the Supreme Court including the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case and has also represented major corporations in international arbitrations. He has been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 2002.
Born in Delhi on 26 October 1952, Ashwani Kumar graduated from St. Stephen's College, Delhi. Thereafter, he pursued law and earned Bachelor of Laws from Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, and a Master of Philosophy from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
In 2004, he was awarded honorary doctorate in law from Panjab University.
At the age of 34, the Supreme Court of India appointed him as a Senior Counsel, making him one of the youngest advocates in India to be conferred the honour by the apex court.
He has been the Additional Solicitor General of India and is an “Associate Tenant” as Counsel with the Doughty Street Chambers in London. He is actively engaged in the advocacy of human rights issues in and out of court.
Ashwani Kumar was the Minister of Law and Justice from 28 October 2012 to 11 May 2013. From 19 January 2011 to 11 May 2013, he was the Minister of State in the Ministry of Planning; Ministry of Science and Technology; and Ministry of Earth Sciences. He was also the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs from January to July 2011. Kumar was appointed as Member of Standing Committee on External Affairs in 2009.
In 2013, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed him as his Special Envoy "to maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges with Japan" and prepare for the upcoming visit of Japan’s Emperor and the Empress to India.
In 2013, he was invited as a speaker at the Aix Le Cercle des economists in Aix-en-Provence, France. In 2012, Kumar was the Keynote Speaker at the Harvard Club, New York City on “The Legal Architecture for consolidating the economic reform process in India” and was also a guest lecturer at MIT.
In 2011 he was invited as the Keynote Speaker at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Science and Technology Forum (STS) at Kyoto, Japan. Kumar was a guest speaker at The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008. He was a visiting scholar at CSIS, Washington in 2004. In addition to writing a number of scholarly articles on law; economic reforms; elections; democracy and international affairs Kumar has also authored a book titled Law, Ideas and Ideology in Politics; Perspectives of an Activist in 2003.
His second book “Hope in a Challenged Democracy- an Indian Narrative” was released in New Delhi by Dr. Manmohan Singh on 10th April, 2017, in the presence of Dr. Hamid Ansari, the then Vice President of India.
Dr. Kumar was a distinguished fellow at the Trinity College, Dublin (2016) and has spoken at the Oxford Human Rights Hub, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, University of Birmingham, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Kings College London amongst others.
Ashwani Kumar was appointed as Member of Standing Committee of Parliament on External Affairs in 2009. He also served as the Chairman of the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha for “The Prevention of Torture Bill”, 2010. He was also appointed as a member of the Standing Committee of Parliament on Defense and a member of the prestigious Public Accounts Committee in 2013. In 2014, Kumar was appointed a member of the Co-ordination Committee of the INC in Rajya Sabha and a member of the Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the INC which includes MP's from both the Houses of the Parliament. Kumar has also been a member of the Empowered Sub-Committee of the High Level Committee on Manufacturing and the Standing Committee on Commerce. Currently, Dr. Kumar has been nominated as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests. In January 2015, Kumar was nominated as a Member of the General Purposes Committee of Rajya Sabha. He was also nominated as a Member of the Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Defence in January 2015.
In 2014, Ashwani Kumar was appointed as a Member of the National Literacy Mission. He was a Member of the Indian Ministerial delegation for the 3rd Indo-US Strategic Dialogue and the 1st Indo-Japan Economic Dialogue held in New Delhi. Kumar was the Founder President of the Indo-French Parliamentary Friendship Group constituted by the Speaker of Lok Sabha in 2003.
In 2013, Ashwani Kumar was nominated to represent India at the United Nations General Assembly Session in New York City. He also represented India at the Summer Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions (2011) in Dalian, People’s Republic of China. Kumar was appointed as the Accompanying Minister to the President of India Smt.Pratibha Devisingh Patil on her State Visit to Spain and Poland in 2009. Between 2006-2009 he was nominated as Accompanying Minister to The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe; The Prime Minister of UK, Gordon Brown; King Albert II of Belgium; and President of Kazakhastan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. In his official capacity Kumar has engaged with global leaders including President Simon Perez of Israel, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and President Sarkozy of France.
The CBI Director, Ranjit Sinha, in April 2013, on the behest of the Honorable Supreme Court of India, submitted an affidavit on the draft investigative report on the Indian coal allocation scam, vetted by Ashwani Kumar prior to submission at the court. The opposition claimed this event undermined the autonomy of the CBI and demanded Kumar’s resignation. Kumar resigned from the cabinet on 10 May 2013. While announcing his resignation Kumar stated that he was resigning only to ensure that the functioning of Parliament is not stalled and added that the Honorable Supreme Court had not made any adverse comments against him.
After his resignation in May 2013, Kumar was elected as a Congress Party member of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. In November 2013, he was appointed as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Japan in the rank of a cabinet minister, in connection with the arrangements for the visit of the Emperor and Empress of Japan and Prime Minister Abe to India. He was also nominated as member of the Standing Committee of Parliament on Defense in August 2013. Kumar addressed a session of the United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Security Council in October 2013 as member of the Indian Parliamentary Delegation to United Nations General Assembly. In September 2014, Dr. Kumar was appointed Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Forests, which also concerns itself with legislative framework for Atomic Energy and Space, as a Congress party nominee. He was made a member of the “shadow cabinet” on matters related to the ministries of Defence, Home and Law and Justice, by the Congress President in November 2014.
Dr. Ashwani Kumar was decorated (May 9th, 2017) by the Emperor of Japan with the “Grand Cordon of the order of the rising Sun”, one of the highest Japanese civilian honours, for his significant contribution in promoting India- Japan relationship.
He married (Late)Smt.Madhu Kumar on 30 November 1975 and has a daughter and a son.
Ashwani Kumar is an author & his articles on various subjects have been published in leading newspapers. Some of these and the two books authored by him are listed below:
"The lesson from Doklam- Peace is the dividend of power" Hindustan Times
"The resilience of our liberalism: on the right to privacy" The Hindu
"Theresa May’s Visit an Opportunity to Redefine Indo-UK Relationship After Brexit" The Wire
"Searching for an equilibrium" The Hindu
"Let us Aim for an Age Irrelevant Society" The Hindustan Times, 3rd September 2015
"Dignity for all" The Tribune, 17th August 2015
"Privacy, a non-negotiable right" The Hindu, 10th August 2015
"Lack of vision for Punjab" The Tribune, April 4, 2015 [An edited version of the article also appeared in the Jagbani and Punjab Kesri (Jalandhar) on March 31, 2015]
"Failing the fairness test" The Indian Express, 20 March, 2015 [An edited version of the article also appeared in the Jagbani and the Punjab Kesri (Jalandhar) on April 1, 2015]
"A contest of ideas, not agendas" The Indian Express, March 16, 2012
"Domestic inflation, result of imported inflation"The Hindu, June 23, 2008Hope in a Challenged Democracy: An Indian Narrative (Publisher: Wisdom Tree; ISBN 978-8183284943)
Law, Ideas and Ideology in Politics: Perspectives of an Activist (Publisher: HarAnand Publications; ISBN 978-8124109250)
Order of the Rising Sun, 1st Class, Grand Cordon (2017)