The freedom to practice law is not unconditional,the Supreme Court said today. A former judge or member of a judicial forum can’t practise before the same forum without attracting a reasonable likelihood of bias,it said.
A lawyers right to practise is subservient to statutes framed by legislature,and rules of Bar Council of India,the court said in a judgment.
A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar made the observations in an appeal filed by a former member of the Central Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) questioning the legality of Section 129 (6),a recent addition to the Customs Act,prohibiting former members of the tribunal from practising before it.
N K Bajpai,technical member on CESTAT bench,argued it was unfair to impose the restriction retrospectively,as he had demitted office in March 1993,a full decade before the provision came into existence in 2003. He also contended that it was an unreasonable fetter on his right to profession.