New Delhi, Feb 7: A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking barring of serving MPs, MLAs and MLCs from practising as advocates in courts across India during their entire tenure as lawmakers.
Alternatively, the plea, which is likely come up for hearing in the apex court during the week, has sought setting aside of the Bar Council of India (BCI) rules prohibiting public servants in general from practising law in courts.
"The injury caused to the public because a salaried person and particularly a public servant cannot practise as an advocate but legislators are practising which is violation of Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution.
"Legislators take fee from litigant and salary from the public exchequer, which is professional misconduct," the PIL, filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, said.
The lawyer said that he had earlier approached apex bar body BCI with his plea on December 18 last year, but "it has not taken appropriate steps to ban them (lawmakers) till date".
The plea referred to Rule 49 of the BCI Rules which says, "An advocate shall not be a full-time salaried employee of any person, government, firm, corporation or concern, so long as he continues to practise, and shall, on taking up any such employment, intimate the fact to the bar council on whose roll his name appears and shall thereupon cease to practise as an advocate so long as he continues in such employment."
It cited Article 106 of the Constitution which provides that "the members of either House of Parliament shall be entitled to receive salaries and allowances as may from time to time be determined by Parliament by law".
The plea said that lawmakers, who receive money as salary and perquisites from the public exchequer, either be restrained from practising as advocates or other public servants be also allowed to practise law. It has made Union Ministry of Law and Justice and Bar Council of India as parties.
"This is a matter of serious concern to both the judiciary and the legislature because many legislators are involved in the active practise of law, despite receiving salaries and other perquisites drawn on the public exchequer. They also utilise their position as MPs/MLAs to be visible in the public domain, including on television where they give interviews or participate in shows," it said.
"This essentially amounts to advertising as their 'brand' is promoted among the public, many of whom are potential litigants. This virtually seamless transition between the two spheres by these legislators is causing irreversible harm to both the profession and public interest," the plea said.