The Bar Council of India (BCI) has invited comments from Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and Members of Legislative Councils (MLCs) on a plea demanding their debarment from practicing as Advocates. They have been requested to submit their comments within a week, after which the BCI will meet on 22 January to take the final decision.
A release issued by the BCI said, "The Sub-Committee of the Council which consists of Mr. B.C. Thakur, Mr. R.G. Shah, Mr. D.P. Dhal and Mr. S. Prabhakaran has thought it proper to invite the comments of the Learned M.Ps/ M.L.As/ M.L.Cs (who are in legal profession) before taking any final decision in the matter with regard to ban on their practice."
"The Sub-Committee , after thorough consideration of the matter decides to invite comments of the M.Ps, M.L.As and M.L.Cs who are in Legal practice. Mr. A. Upadhyay has filed this representation before Bar Council of India for banning such Legislators/Parliamentarians on various grounds. The Committee thinks it proper to seek their comments before taking any final decision in this matter.
Office is to publish this decision on the website of Bar Council of India and also to issue notice (along with copies of representation of Mr. Ashwini Upadhyay) to the known M.Ps/M.L.As/M.L.Cs who are in legal profession. The comments, if any, are to be furnished within a week. The next meeting shall be held on 21.01.2018. Office is to act accordingly".
The release was issued in response to a letter addressed to the Chairman of Bar Council of India, Mr. Manan Kumar Mishra by BJP leader and Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who had requested that legislators be barred from practicing as Advocates.
To this end, Mr. Upadhyay had relied on the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in the case of Dr. Haniraj L. Chulani v. Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa, 1996 AIR 1708, wherein it was held that a person qualified to be an Advocate would not be admitted as one if he is in fulltime or part-time service or employment, or is engaged in any trade, business or profession.
He had also cited Section VII, Chapter-II of Part-VI of the Bar Council of India Rules, which lists down restrictions on other employments. He had then highlighted the fact that members of the Executive and the Judiciary are not permitted to practice while MPs and MLAs are, contending that this is against the spirit of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India.
He had further alleged that several MPs and MLAs appear as Advocates during the Parliament and Legislative Assembly Sessions, contending, "Legislator enjoys better salary, allowance and post-retirement benefits than members of Executive and Judiciary. It is a honorable and fulltime profession but does not remain noble merely by calling it as such, unless he is dedicated for welfare of people. Legislators are expected to put fulltime service to public and their constituents ahead of their personal interests. Nobility of the profession of Law also has to be preserved and protected. Therefore, provisions of the Advocates Act and BCI Rules must be given effect in letter and spirit to maintain clean and efficient Bar to serve the cause of justice."
These legislators, he said, defend "lawbreaker clients" in the Court of law, a situation which was contended to be "not only immoral and unethical" but also in violation of Rule 49 of the BCI Rules.