New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that lawyers-turned-lawmakers, both in Parliament and the state legislatures cannot be barred from practising before the courts during their term as lawmakers.
“To sum up, we hold that the provisions of the Advocates Act of 1961 and the Bar Council of India Rules framed thereunder do not place any restrictions on the legislators to practise as advocates during the relevant period,” said the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in their judgment.
The court said this while addressing a limited question whether legislators can be debarred from practising as advocates during the period when they continue to be the members of Parliament or a state Assembly/Council.
The top court judgment refusing to restrict lawmakers from practising as advocates before the courts has come as boost to senior lawyers Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, P. Chidambaram, K.T.S. Tulsi, Pinaki Misra, Meenakshi Lekhi and K. Parasaran, who are among the parliamentarians practising as advocates.
While rejecting the plea to bar the lawyer-cum-lawmakers from practising law before the courts, the top court also said that the conferment of power on the members of Parliament to move an impeachment motion against the judge(s) of the constitutional courts does not per se result in conflict of interest or a case of impacting constitutional morality or for that matter institutional integrity.
The court’s verdict came on a plea filed by advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, contending that MPs/MLAs practising as advocates pose a conflict of interest under the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961, and the Bar Council of India Rules.
The plea had sought a ban on legislators practising as advocates for the period that they occupy such positions as lawmakers, contending that the dual role would also amount to professional misconduct when MPs and MLAs, who get salary and other benefits from public funds, appear against the government as lawyers.
The court said that merely because the advocate concerned is an elected people’s representative, it does not follow that he/she has indulged in professional misconduct.