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Parliamentarians should give up law practice, argues SC petition (sure, it’ll never happen, but if it did, it might be a good thing for young lawyers)

Would the forced retirement of many of the most senior of counsel be good or bad for the profession?
Would the forced retirement of many of the most senior of counsel be good or bad for the profession?

A petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in the apex court is arguing that legislators should cease practising law because it gives rise to conflict between their duty to client and to the constitution, seeking to extend the restriction that exists on public servants and judges to carry out professions to elected parliamentarians, reported The Hindu:

“We cannot curb corruption without having a uniform policy relating to conflict of interest and restricting our legislators to practice other professions as similar to the restriction imposed on public servants and members of the judiciary... many lawmakers hold corporate retainership and defend their lawbreaker clients in courts. It is not only immoral, unethical but also violation of the Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India Rules,” Mr. Upadhyay contended.

“It is said that with 543 Lok Sabha MPs representing more than 1.3 billion people, a Member of Parliament on an average represents more than 2.25 million people. Similarly, a Rajya Sabha MP is the voice of his State in Parliament, and as such, has a very important role in our federal political system. The primary role of an MP is as a legislator. Thus, MPs must attend Parliament every day and dedicate themselves full time for the welfare of people,” the petition said.

But with lawyers making up a significant portion of the front-benches of most major parties (and politicians also constituting a near majority of the most senior and well-paid advocates in Delhi), the chances of this petition ever getting off the ground are slim.

However emphatic its arguments are, we can’t think of any judge who would be happy to preside over a cull of senior counsel from practice on such a grand scale.

The backlash and the short-term talent vacuum it would create at the bar, particularly in Delhi, would be severe.

On the other hand, mixing up the senior counsel ranks by removing a large chunk of the generation that has practically created an oligopoly, causing fees at the top to rise to levels not seen in any other jurisdiction, could do wonders for competition at the bar and the careers of talented younger lawyers.

Food for thought.

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