The Bar Council of Gujarat on June 21 passed a resolution temporarily lifting the bar on practicing advocates allowing them to undertake any other business or profession till December 31, 2020 in the wake of the COVID 19 induced lockdown where many advocates have been out of practice due to the limited functioning of the Courts.
The Bar Council has however directed the advocates to engage themselves in such professions which maintains the dignity of an advocate.
The Bar Council of Gujarat has decided to send its resolution to the Bar Council of India for its approval since the Bar Council of India Rules imposes certain restrictions on practicing lawyer from holding the licence to practice, if he or she engages himself in any other profession job or business other than legal practice.
Rules 47 to 52 of Section VII of the rules deals with restrictions on other employments.
“Rule 47. An advocate shall not personally engage in any business; but he may be a sleeping partner in a firm doing business provided that in the opinion of the appropriate State Bar Council, the nature of the business is not inconsistent with the dignity of the profession.
Rule 48. An advocate may be Director or Chairman of the Board of Directors of a Company with or without any ordinarily sitting fee, provided none of his duties are of an executive character. An advocate shall not be a Managing Director or a Secretary of any Company.
Rule 49. An advocate shall not be a full-time salaried employee of any person, government, firm, corporation or concern, so long as he continues to practise, and shall, on taking up any such employment, intimate the fact to the Bar Council on whose roll his name appears and shall thereupon cease to practise as an advocate so long as he continues in such employment.
Rule 50. An advocate who has inherited, or succeeded by survivorship to a family business may continue it, but may not personally participate in the management thereof. He may continue to hold a share with others in any business which has decended to him by survivorship or inheritance or by will, provided he does not personally participate in the management thereof.
Rule 51. An advocate may review Parliamentary Bills for a remuneration, edit legal text books at a salary, do press-vetting for newspapers, coach pupils for legal examination, set and examine question papers; and subject to the rules against advertising and full-time employment, engage in broadcasting, journalism, lecturing and teaching subjects, both legal and non-legal.
Rule 52. Nothing in these rules shall prevent an advocate from accepting after obtaining the consent of the State Bar Council, part-time employment provided that in the opinion of the State Bar Council, the nature of the employment does not conflict with his professional work and is not inconsistent with the dignity of the profession. This rule shall be subject to such directives if any as may be issued by the Bar Council India from time to time.”
The Supreme court in the case of Dr. Haniraj L. Chulani vs. Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa, while dealing with the restrictions on other employment of practicing lawyers has observed that “legal profession requires full time attention and would not countenance an Advocate riding two horses or more at a time.”
Justice N V Anjaria of the Gujarat High Court while dealing with a case titled Jalpa Pradeepbhai Desai Vs Bar Council of India where a lawyer who worked as a full time consultant with a public sector undertaking and had been unsuccessfully trying to get enrolled with the Gujarat Bar Council held that “Considering the nature of service contract of the petitioner with the Corporation, there is no gainsaying that she incurs debility in terms of Rule 49 as her employment could be characterized as a full-time salaried employment. As a result, refusal by the respondents to grant the petitioner enrolment and the certificate to practice law could be said to be eminently proper and legal.”
While taking into account the above mentioned cases and the rules of BCI, it is evident that a practicing lawyer cannot engage himself in any other profession, job or business other than legal practice. Hence, the resolution passed by the Gujarat Bar Council does not appear to be in tandem with the rules of BCI and it is most likely that the BCI may not concur with the resolution of the Gujarat Bar Council since the rules have been made to maintain clean and efficient Bar in the country to serve cause of justice which again is a noble one.