Notice issued in Plea challenging a Rule that bar lawyers from representing an organisation they are part of

On Monday, the Delhi High Court sought responses from the Bar Council of India and Bar Council of Delhi in Advocate Prashant Bhushan’s petition challenging a Rule that prevents advocates from appearing in pro bono PILs filed by an organisation wherein they are an executive committee member or an office-bearer. The case is titled Prashant Bhushan vs Bar Council of Delhi & Ors.

The Division Bench comprising Hon’ble Justice DN Patel and Hon’ble Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice to both the Bar Councils. 

Advocate Bhushan has challenged Rule 8 of Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette framed by BCI u/s 49(1)(c) of the Advocates Act. This Rule reads that no lawyer can bear before a court in representing a society, corporation or institution, in which he is a member of the executive committee. However, Rule 8 would not apply if the lawyer doesn’t charge fees and appears as aamicus curiae.

Before the Court, Advocate Bhushan also sought to quash a complaint filed against him for violating the said Rule.

The Complaints stated that Bhushan appeared on behalf of organisations like Swaraj Abhiyan, Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation despite being a Member of these organisations.

However, Counsel for Bhushan argued that the said Rule is arbitrary as it bars lawyers from representing an organisation where he is a Member. He further argued that there is no justification or rationale for the Rule that prohibits an organisation from engaging a lawyer who happens to be a member of the said organisation.

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Lastly, it was contended that its interpretation is discriminatory as it exempts lawyers who appear amicus curiae or those who represent various Bar Councils without charging a fee.

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