BCI to decide soon if MPs and MLAs can double up as advocates

Three-member panel to submit report in a few days

BCI to decide soon if MPs and MLAs can double up as advocates

The Bar Council of India (BCI) is to soon decide on a plea to debar MPs and MLAs from practising as advocates in courts.

Acting on an application filed by lawyer and Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the BCI, the regulatory body of legal profession, has formed a three-member panel which is likely to submit its report in a few days, sources said.

The panel - comprising D P Dhal, B C Thakur and R P Shah - will decide the fate of several former Union ministers, including Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram, who now appear in the court as senior advocates though they remain Members of Parliament.

In his representation to BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, Upadhyay contended that the provisions of the Advocates Act and the rules framed by the regulator must be given due effect as legislators enjoyed better salary, allowance and post-retirement benefits than members of the executive and judiciary, who are not permitted to practise in a court of law.

Allowing people's representatives to practise will go against the spirit of Articles 14 (equality) and 15 (no discrimination) of the Constitution, he said.

Soon after 2004 polls, BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad had put on the black gowns after the NDA lost power.

Sources said the panel will look into provisions of the Advocates Act and BCI rules to examine the application by Upadhyay.

The applicant has cited the apex court's three-judge bench ruling on April 8, 1996, in 'Dr Haniraj L Chulani versus Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa' case, holding that a person who is qualified to be admitted as an advocate but is in either full-time or part-time service or employment or is engaged in any trade, business or profession shall not be admitted as an advocate.

Detailing the varied roles played by legislators, he said they were expected to extend full-time service to public and their constituents disregarding their personal interests, but many of them hold corporate retainer-ship and defend their "lawbreaker clients" in the court of law, which is a matter of conflict of interest. "It is not only immoral and unethical but also a violation of Rule 49 of the BCI Rules," he said.

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