Sunday, February 5, 2023

Lawyer’s strikes: Supreme Court flays Bar Council of India for lackadaisical approach

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The Supreme Court reprimanded the Bar Council of India on Tuesday for not taking specific and concrete measures to prevent the Advocates from going on strikes.

The Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Bela Trivedi observed that being a responsible body provided with many rights, the Bar Council of India (BCI) was expected to show more seriousness towards its causes.

As per the Apex Court, a reasonable and workable solution was the need of the hour for BCI, for which the Council has been provided the statute.

Stating that the rules of professional ethics and etiquette were comprehensive and specific about striking lawyers, the Bench directed the Council to work expeditiously on implementation of rules, while inserting a few lines here and there. 

It said BCI was responsible for the entire fraternity and that the Council should cover all the issues related to the lawyers, particularly the members of the bar, more concretely and clearly.

It added that anything which did not fit within the status of a lawyer, an officer of the court or a member of the bar, was expected not to be done. 

While hearing a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause, the Apex Court observed that laxity on part of BCI was not doing any good to anyone.

Appearing for BCI, Advocate Ardhendumauli Kumar Prasad submitted that deliberations were going on with the State Bar Councils. 

The Bench said it could not allow the Council to work at a ‘leisurely’ pace and directed it to come up with ‘concrete’ plans to prevent State Bar Associations from going on strikes and abstaining from court work.   

Noting that members of the State Bar councils eventually became part of the BCI, it said that since the BCI members were from State Bar Councils only, it cannot claim to be different.

Prasad contended that though the members came from the State Bar Councils, the powers and functions were different, adding that though the associations were sensitised, but they were not following the rules, 

It submitted that in Orissa and Calcutta, stringent actions were taken against the Office bearers of the Bar Associations and were suspended pending inquiry.

The Apex Court then told the BCI that another bench of the Court had said in November that it expected the BCI to suspend the licences of the lawyers, who had been striking in Odisha over a long-standing demand for permanent bench of the Orissa High Court in Sambalpur.

When the top court of the country directed BCI to come with details for the next hearing, Prasad said that he would file an affidavit on the same.

The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the Court had suggested the Centre to frame rules against advocates going on strike. It noted that if BCI was strict with the lawyers, they would know the consequences for their behaviour.

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