Being a Member of Parliament is not a “full-time” job and legislators cannot be stopped from doubling up as advocates, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday. Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal made this submission before a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay to ban sitting MPs from practising in courts.

The Centre’s stand is significant as many Opposition MPs are senior advocates like Abhishek Manu Singhvi, P. Chidambaram, who play vital roles in politically-sensitive cases in the Supreme Court. Mr. Singhvi recently won the case for the Congress in the Karnataka elections.

The focus of the petition is Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India Rules, which mandates that “an advocate shall not be a full-time salaried employee of any person, government or concern”.

Mr. Upadhyay, represented by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, said MPs are “employees” of the government. They draw salaries and there is nothing “part-time about being an MP”.

But Mr. Venugopal said it was the fundamental right of a person to carry on his vocation. “Lawyer-MPs have done great service to the nation… We cannot prevent a person from practising their profession,” the AG said.

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