BCI invites comments from MPs on plea to debar them from practice

BCI invites comments from MPs on plea to debar them from practice

BCI invites comments from MPs on plea to debar them from practice

The Bar Council of India on Wednesday sought comments from the Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, who practiced as advocates, on a plea to debar them for allegedly violating the law.

Acting on a representation made by lawyer and Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the BCI's three-member committee sought response from lawmakers who doubled up as advocates.

The committee – comprising D P Dhal, B C Thakur and R P Shah – gave one week's time to the elected representatives and posted the matter for final decision on January 22.

The decision could decide the fate of several former Union ministers, including Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram, who practice in courts as senior advocates while remaining Members of Parliament. Among others, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi and Congress MP Vivek Tankha also donned the black robes as advocates.

In his plea, Upadhyay contended that the provisions of the Advocates Act and the rules framed by the regulator must be given due effect as legislators enjoyed salary, allowance and post-retirement benefits.

Allowing people's representatives to practice would go against the spirit of Articles 14 (equality) and 15 (no discrimination) of the Constitution, as those in other professions and jobs are not allowed to practice in courts, he said.

Immoral, unethical

He 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, 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 roles played by legislators, he said they were expected to render full-time service to the people and their constituents disregarding their personal interests, but many of them hold corporate retainership and defend their "lawbreaker clients" in the court of Law, which amounts to conflict of interest. "It is not only immoral and unethical but also violation of Rule 49 of the BCI Rules," he said.

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