India

Why can't we bar you from legal practice, Bar Council asks lawmaker-lawyers

Rajya Sabha members P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal are among several MPs who continue to be practicing advocates as well as lawmakers. File photo.

Rajya Sabha members P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal are among several MPs who continue to be practicing advocates as well as lawmakers. File photo.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) on Wednesday asked Members of Parliament and State Assembly legislators, who double as advocates, to respond on why they should not be banned from legal practice.

An expert committee of the BCI is considering a plea filed by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay to ban the lawmakers  who practice as advocates, saying they are salaried public servants and cannot ride two horses at the same time.

“The committee, after considering the representation of the petitioner, has decided to issue notice to the MPs/MLAs and has invited their comments with regard to the representation,” the BCI said.

BCI chairperson and senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra told The Hindu over the telephone that over 500 lawmakers are practising as advocates in various courts, including the Supreme Court.

Meeting on January 21 to take a final decision

“It is a very important issue which may have far-reaching effects. Therefore, it is necessary to invite the opinion, views and comments of the persons concerned,” said the BCI, which is scheduled to meet on January 21 to take a final decision on this crucial issue.

The three-member panel of top BCI office-bearers and advocates B.C. Thakur, R.G. Shah and D.P. Dhal is examining the provisions of the Advocates Act and the Bar Council of India Rules on the question.

Mr. Upadhyay has contended that as MPs and MLAs draw their salaries from the Consolidated Fund of India, they are “employees of the State”.

The BCI Rule 49 restricted a salaried employee from practising as advocate, the petition pointed out. Many senior advocates practising in the Supreme Court were also politicians and sitting MPs.

“Under Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 2(c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, MLAs and MPs are public servants. Hence, allowing them to practice, as an advocate and restricting other public servants is arbitrary, irrational and violation of Articles 14-15 of the Constitution,” Mr. Upadhyay has submitted before the BCI

He contended that it amounted to “professional misconduct” that MLAs and MPs, who got salary and other benefits from the public fund, appear against the government. Some of these lawmakers even hold corporate retainerships, he said.


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Printable version | Aug 8, 2022 4:46:46 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/why-cant-we-ban-you-from-legal-practice-bci-asks-lawmaker-lawyers/article22413707.ece