Attorney General Opposes PIL to Bar MPs, MLAs from Practising Law

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The move comes just two days after the state assembly came down heavily on the Central Water Commission chairman, who also holds the additional charge of the CWMA head, for giving Karnataka permission to prepare detailed project report for the controversial Mekadatu reservoir.

New Delhi: Attorney General for India KK Venugopal has opposed a PIL in the Supreme Court that wants MPs and MLAs to stop practising law.

In his brief submission before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Venugopal sought to justify the dual role played by the legislators when they double up as lawyers.

"The Parliament doesn't function continuously for the whole year. It sits only for a certain number of days in a year," the top law officer has told the bench during a hearing of the PIL filed by activist lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay.

Attorney General was called upon by the bench to assist the Court in dealing with the petition, which has sought debarment of MPs and MLAs from practising law under the Bar Council of India rules as well on grounds of conflict of interest and professional ethics.

As soon as Venugopal was requested by the bench to express his views, the AG first objected to the PIL on the ground of maintainability.

"A similar petition by the same petitioner (Upadhyay) has already been dismissed by this Court. Kindly request the prayers and the final order of dismissal in the previous writ petition in 2017," said Venugopal.

The AG then read out from the previous petition, in which Upadhyay had asked for "uniform policy relating to conflict of interest and restricting our legislators from practising other professions as similar to the restriction imposed on public servants and members of the judiciary".

But Justice Misra responded that the plea appeared to be different in the old writ petition and that AG should tell his views on the merit.

At this Venugopal replied: "So far as Parliament is concerned, it sits only for a certain number of days. Parliament doesn't sit for the whole year."

Left with no time to hear the PIL at length, the Court, however, had to adjourn it for another day.

The bench issued a notice to the Bar Council of India (BCI) while adjourning the matter to April 23.

By a 3:1 majority, an expert committee of the BCI had last month recommended that MPs, MLAs and MLCs be allowed to pursue legal practice despite being elected as legislators. But the BCI is yet to take a final call on this issue.