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Petitioner Accuses CJI of Conflict of Interest in Case Against Lawyers-Turned-Lawmakers, Seeks New Bench

The petitioner said that senior lawyer and Biju Janata Dal MP Pinaki Misra is the cousin of the CJI Dipak Mishra and hence, a new Constitution Bench should hear the case afresh.

Debayan Roy | News18.com

Updated:August 6, 2018, 5:53 PM IST
Petitioner Accuses CJI of Conflict of Interest in Case Against Lawyers-Turned-Lawmakers, Seeks New Bench
File photo of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: One of the petitioners who had urged the Supreme Court to debar lawmakers from practicing as lawyers has now moved an additional application seeking a separate Constitution Bench that does not feature Chief Justice Dipak Misra to hear the case as a current legislator and senior advocate is the cousin of the CJI.

A bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud had reserved order in the case on July 9. A total of six petitions have been clubbed in this case.

Bhartiya Matdata Sangathan, who was one of the co-petitioners in the case, said that senior lawyer and Biju Janata Dal MP Pinaki Misra is the cousin of the CJI Dipak Mishra and since it is a matter of "Constitutional Morality, Institution Integrity and Affirmative Equality", a new constitution bench should hear the case.

"Pinaki Misra is cousin of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India. He is Member of the Lok Sabha and representing the Biju Janata Dal. Hence, he is definitely an affected and interested party in this matter," stated the application.

The application further said that as a senior advocate, Pinaki Misra has appeared in several important cases in high courts, and is currently representing the NBCC in Delhi High Court, where the petitioner in a PIL has challenged the felling of thousands of trees in Sarojini Nagar and other areas.

Initially, the case was referred to the Bar Council of India, who had formed a sub-committee to examine the petition. The committee had later submitted a report a stating that legislators can indeed practice as lawyers.

The original petitioner, BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, who moved the first petition for such debarment had stated that since MPs have the power to impeach judges, they should not be allowed to practice before judges.

Now in this application too this ground has been raked up but in relation to CJI Misra.

"Pinaki Mishra has power of voting on the impeachment of Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. Therefore, allowing him to practice as an Advocate in the Supreme Court and High Courts is a very serious Conflict of Interest. It may allow the Hon’ble Judges to feel beholden to him and oblige them with favorable judgments / orders (sic)," reads the application.

During an earlier hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal had told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud that the Advocates Act and rules implemented by the Bar Council of India (BCI) prohibited lawyers from taking up full-time employment either under a person or government.

"MPs are not employees of anyone though they have been termed public servants by judgments of the Supreme Court," he had said.

Appearing for petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, senior advocate Shekhar Naphade said MPs were public servants, they drew salary and perks and were amenable to disciplinary proceedings like any other employee.

"The SC needs to give a liberal interpretation to the meaning of employee. MPs’ vocation is not a part-time job. Can the court allow lawyer-doctors to practice both professions?" he asked. The bench countered, "Can a doctor-MP not treat patients?"

Naphade had submitted that if MPs were held not to be employees, then no politician could be prosecuted in corruption cases as they would say that they were not employees.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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