Lawyers and Parliamentarians

What is the issue?
The issue is whether MPs and MLAs should practice law in courts. By doing so, does it affect the quality of work in the legislative work?
Rules under Bar Council of India
  • Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India states 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.
Court Ruling
  • A five-judge Bench in M. Karunanidhi v. Union of India (1979) categorically stated that MPs and MLAs are public servants, though the employer-employee relationship will not apply to them. Mr. Karunanidhi had argued that he was not a public servant in a corruption case.
Practical issues
  • The work of a lawyer is a full-time activity. So is the work of MPs and MLAs; they are full-time members of Parliament and Assemblies.
  • They have to take part in the proceedings of the House, meet people in their constituencies, and grapple with and address people’s issues. They have their work cut out.
  • To facilitate their work, they are given a bungalow and a car, an office and a salary. They should go and serve the people.
Ethical Issues
  • Also, no lawyer can benefit from the petitioner and the respondent. MPs and MLAs who are practicing lawyers take a fee from the petitioner and get their salary from the respondent, which is the Central or State government.
  • This is professional misconduct, as they end up enjoying the benefits of both.
  • There is also a conflict of interest. MPs and MLAs have the power to initiate impeachment proceedings against a judge, which means that they can pressurise the judge to give a favourable verdict when they plead before him or her in a case. When you take public money and argue against the government, it is professional misconduct.
  • When MPs and MLAs find a draft Bill wanting, they should argue in Parliament, not challenge it in a court of law. Also, they take retainership from a company, which raises questions of professional misconduct as well as conflict of interest.
  • Public servants are barred from engaging in other professional services, so on a similar note, we cannot allow legislators who are also public servants to argue cases in courts.
  • This is a violation of Articles 14, 15, and 21, which deal with the right to equality, prohibition of discrimination, and protection of life and personal liberty, respectively.

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