The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea that sought to prevent legislators from practising law, Bar and Bench reported. The top court ruled that the Bar Council of India’s rule restricting salaried employees from practicing as advocates did not apply to lawmakers.
A Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said legislators are not full-time salaried employees. The court was hearing a petition filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay.
In January, a Bar Council of India expert committee issued notices to members of Parliament and state legislatures who are practising lawyers, asking them why they should not be debarred. The following month, the committee recommended that they should not be barred. Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, KTS Tulsi, and P Chidambaram were among the over 500 MPs and MLAs under the council’s scanner.
Upadhyay had argued that legislators “get a salary from the consolidated fund of India and are, hence, employees of the state, and the BCI’s rule 49 restricts a salaried employee from practising as an advocate”.
In July, the Centre opposed Upadhyay’s public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court. Attorney General KK Venugopal had said legislators are not full-time government employees. “They are doing a public service in their capacity as an MP,” Venugopal reasoned. “You cannot stop a person from practising a profession. It is a fundamental right to carry on a profession.”