Supreme Court has said that the legislators could not be banned from practising as lawyers in courts. A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking ban on the legal practice of MPs, MLAs and MLCs who are legal professionals.
The Supreme Court said that no law debars the MPs, MLAs and MLCs from practising in court. The petition had been filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay. He contended that allowing MPs, MLAs and MLCs to practise in a court of law amounts to violation of the fundamental right to equality before law as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.
Though the number of lawyers being elected to the Lok Sabha has reduced since 1952 when the first Lok Sabha was elected. Back then, 36 per cent of the Lok Sabha MPs were lawyers. In the current 16th Lok Sabha, only 7 per cent members are lawyers. But they continue to dominate government and proceedings of Parliament.
Ashwini Upadhyay’s petition referred to the Bar Council of India provisions saying that Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India banned MPs and MLAs from practising as lawyers in courts.
The Rule states, the petition said, that any full-time salaried employee, whether he or she belongs to a corporation, private firm, or the government, cannot practise as a lawyer before a court of law. No public servant can engage in the pursuit of any other vocation and certainly cannot offer his or her services as a lawyer while in service.
The petitioner cited a 1979 judgment by of the Supreme Court in M Karunanidhi versus Union of India case to back its argument for a ban on legal practice by MPs and MLAs. Karunanidhi had argued in the case that he was not a public servant in the capacity of a legislator. The five-judge bench had then ruled that MPs and MLAs are public servants.
The petition further argued that as MPs have the power to decide on impeachment of judges of the Supreme Court and the high court, they are in a position to put pressure on the judges.
It also contended that MPs and MLAs appearing as lawyers in courts is a case of conflict of interests as they happen to benefit from both, the complainant and the respondent involved in litigation. The MPs and MLAs draw their salaries from the Centre or state governments and charge fees from the complainant, who moves against the government in courts.