The Hon’ble Delhi HC on 15th March 2021 served notice to the Bar Council of India (hereinafter referred to as “BCI”) and Bar Council of Delhi on a petition filed by Advocate Prashant Bhushan challenging the validity of Rule 8 of the Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette (‘Rule 8’) framed by the BCI under Section 49(1)(c) of the Advocates Act, 1961.
Bhushan has moved the Hon’ble court in quest of quashing a specific complaint led against him before the Bar Council of Delhi for the alleged violation of the impugned Rule 8. In his petition, Bhushan has challenged the Rule to the extent that, “…Rule 8 is being used to prevent an Advocate from appearing in a pro bono public interest case on behalf of an organization of which he/she happens to be an office-bearer or member of its executive committee.”
Furthermore, based on the complaint of which proceedings were initiated against Bhushan, contended that Bhushan violated the impugned Rule 8 as he had appeared on behalf of organizations such as Centre for Public Interest Litigation, Common Cause, and Swaraj Abhiyan despite being a member of the Executive Committee of these organizations.
In his reply, Bhushan has stated before the Bar Council of Delhi that Rule 8 has no application in a case wherein an Advocate, who is on the Executive Committee of a non-profit organization, appears in a public interest case without any fees and therefore all consequential proceedings arising from the complaint must be quashed.
Bhushan particularizes that there have been uncountable public interest cases led by establishments such as Common Cause, Swaraj Abhiyan, and Centre for Public Interest Litigation in which Senior Advocates and retired judges of the HC have represented establishments of which they are on the executive body. He further cites examples of Late Justice V.M. Tarkunde and Late Justice Rajender Sachhar, who while being office bearers of the PUCL, have represented PUCL as Advocates in innumerable cases. He also claims that an “identical complaint was made way back in 2001” against him on the ground that he was appearing in the public interest petition led on behalf of the PUCL despite being a member of the said organization.
Additionally, it was submitted that the BCI itself was considering an appropriate amendment in the said Rule 8, as a result of which the Hon’ble Court had not investigated the validity of the said rule. To whish Bhushan has also alleged that according to an advisory by the Bar Council of Delhi dated 15.02.2019 to refrain from appearing as an advocate for and on behalf of organizations, society or institutions, where he is a member of the executive, in his capacity as an advocate, he had placed on record, by way of an affidavit, his resignation letter from the executive body of all the three organizations mentioned in the complaint i.e. Swaraj Abhiyan, Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation
However, the Hon’ble Delhi HC had directed the BCI to drop the proceeding.
Case: Prashant Bhushan vs. Bar Council of Delhi.
Citation: WP (Civil) N. 5518 of 2001