“There are doctors who became IAS officials and engineers who are diplomats,” Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar said, finding no merit in a petition to ban legislators from practising other professions, especially law. A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, dismissed a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay despite strong arguments raised by the latter that beedi or liquor barons eventually become MPs and sit on committees to influence the destiny of their businesses.
“This is a serious conflict of interest... There are politicians who sign at Parliament and come here to appear for private clients... is that not conflict of interest? They get salaries as parliamentarians, why should they come as lawyers,” Mr. Upadhyay argued. The Chief Justice said he had a valid point, but the court could not frame policies.
“Principally your arguments make sense, but how can we frame policy? If there is a law, we will support it,” Chief Justice Khehar said.
Mr. Upadhyay said in his petition that the restriction imposed on public servants and judges against engaging in other professions should apply to lawmakers.
Many legislators who doubled up as advocates were even retainers of big corporate bodies’ entities, thus giving rise to a situation of conflict of interest between their constitutional duties as legislator and lawyer meant to vouchsafe the private interests of their clients.
Call for uniform policy
“We cannot curb corruption without having a uniform policy relating to conflict of interest and restricting our legislators from practising other professions as similar to the restriction imposed on public servants and members of the judiciary ... many lawmakers hold corporate retainership and defend their lawbreaker clients in courts. It is not only immoral, unethical, but also a violation of Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India Rules,” Mr. Upadhyay contended.
“With 543 Lok Sabha MPs representing more than 1.3 billion people, a Member of Parliament on an average represents more than 2.25 million people. Similarly, a Rajya Sabha MP is the voice of his State in Parliament and, as such, has a very important role in our federal political system. The primary role of an MP is as a legislator.
“Thus, MPs must attend Parliament every day and dedicate themselves full-time for the welfare of people,” the petition said.