Relief for MPs appearing for govts in court

Relief for MPs appearing for govts in court

Senior lawyers in Parliament can breathe easy now, with a House panel saying that their appearance in courts for state or Central governments would not come under the office of profit law.

The 15-member Joint Committee on Offices of Profit, chaired by BJP MP P P Chaudhary, examined whether MPs appearing as senior advocates for state or Central governments, local bodies and PSUs would amount to holding an office of profit, after AIADMK Rajya Sabha member A Navaneethakrishnan, himself a senior advocate, raised a query.

Navaneethakrishnan was advocate general in Tamil Nadu. After examining Law Ministry officials and others, the panel noted that “advocate” and “senior advocate” are different classes of advocates.
The panel noted that in light of provisions in the Advocates Act and Bar Council of India rules, a senior advocate cannot be engaged directly by a litigant, a state government and the Centre, nor by any undertaking or institution.

Accordingly, the principle of Privity of Contract, which prescribes that a contract cannot be enforced by a person or institution who is not party to it, is lacking between a senior advocate and the litigant.
“The relationship of master and servant does not exist between a senior advocate and the government or any local authority, where a senior advocate is merely appearing in court at the instruction of an advocate-on-record or advocate,” said the committee.

“The appearance by a senior advocate at the instruction of the advocate or advocate-on-record does not constitute an office of a permanent nature under the government, which has an existence independent of the person who filled it,” it added. The panel also noted that signing of a “vakalatnama” between a senior advocate and the government is prohibited under the Advocates Act.

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