New Delhi: Just days after a sub-committee formed by the Bar Council of India (BCI) rejected an application to ban lawmakers from being lawyers, the applicant has now moved the Supreme Court with a plea highlighting the conflict of interest in MPs and MLAs practising law.
Applicant Ashwini Upadhyay, who had earlier moved several applications before the BCI, has now approached the apex court, citing Rule 49 of the BCI and Article 14 (Equality) of the Constitution.
In his plea, Upadhyay has claimed that when lawyers taking fee from clients and salary from the public exchequer amounts to professional misconduct.
“The legal profession is a noble and demanding one and the apex court has repeatedly frowned upon its practitioners attempting to ride two horses or more at a time,” said the applicant, who has also given examples of how the court “frowned upon” a doctor wanting to practise as an advocate.
The basic contention of the applicant also has been that this dual role of a legislator and a lawyer violates Rule 49 of the BCI. According to Rule 49: “An advocate shall not be a full-time salaried employee of any person, government, firm, corporation or concern, so long as he continues to practise and shall, on taking any such employment, intimate the fact to the BCI and shall cease to practise as an advocate, so long he is in such employment.”
However, when the sub-committee, in majority decision, decided that legislators can indeed practise as lawyers, they had stated that, “We should not forget the fact that lawyers like Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Dr. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajinder Prasad, Lala Lajpat Rai, Rajgopalachari, CS Dass have played important and crucial role in our freedom struggle while they were practising advocates. There is no valid reason as to why services of an advocate, who happens to become an MP/MLA, should not be available to general litigant public who are aggrieved by any act/deed of the government.”
In the plea before SC, Upadhyay has also mentioned that there is a clear conflict of interest as MPs and MLAs have powers to "impeach judges".
"The MPs who have the power of impeachment and can impeach a judge of the Supreme Court where they appear day in and day out; it could be possible that the judges concerned may not be able to discharge their duty without fear. Judges are mostly men of great wisdom and are fearless. However, the public may sometime perceive that judges give favourable orders to few lawyers... As it is said that Caesar's wife should be above suspicion!" read the additional statement filed by Upadhyay.