The Supreme Court today sought the response of the Bar Council of India (BCI) on a plea seeking ban on lawmakers from practising as advocates.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the BCI on the plea which alleged that parliamentarians and legislators, practising as lawyers, posed a “conflict of interest” and violated the provisions of the Advocates Act and the Bar Council of India Rules.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, whose assistance was sought by the apex court on February 17, referred to an earlier judgement in a similar case and sought dismissal of the PIL.
The top court, however, did not agree with the contention of Venugopal saying “this is sightly different” and asked the counsel for the petitioner which rules have been violated.
“Let the copy of this petition be served on parties. Issue notice to BCI,” the bench said and fixed the matter for further hearing on April 23.
The petition, filed by BJP Delhi spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, said while a public servant cannot practice as an advocate, legislators are practising in various courts which was a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
“Legislators take fee from litigant and salary from the public exchequer, which is professional misconduct,” the plea said.
The plea said the issue is a matter of concern to both the judiciary and the legislature as most of the lawmaker-advocates are involved in active practice of law, despite receiving salaries and other perquisites drawn on the public exchequer.
“They (MPs and MLAs) also utilise their position as MPs/MLAs to be visible in public domain, including on television where they give interviews or participate in shows. This essentially amounts to advertising as their brand is promoted among the public, many of whom are potential litigants,” the plea said.
It said that the MPs have the power of voting on the impeachment of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts.
“Therefore, allowing them to practice as an advocate in the Supreme Court and high courts is a very serious ‘conflict of interest’ because it may allow the judges to feel beholden to them and to oblige them,” the petition said.