August 15, 2016
For nearly two months, it has been lawyers versus the Madras High Court in Tamil Nadu. Other than the High Court (which has been working normally) lawyers in most other courts have been on boycott. Things reached a new low in the 154 year history of the institution when more than 3,000 advocates from across the state came to the HC and laid siege to the institution. They are demanding the immediate withdrawal of the recent amendments to the statutory rules under the Advocates Act that empower judges to debar erring lawyers from continuing practice. The genesis of these rules is a Supreme Court judgement in the RK Anand case. “The primary cause, however, is the failure of the bar council to act as the effective regulator of the legal profession,” says Sriram Panchu, senior advocate, Madras HC.
Trouble has been brewing ever since amendments were made to the 46-year-old statutory Rules. Earlier, a court could debar advocates only on the grounds of contempt of court. The new provisions empower judges to debar advocates who browbeat or abuse judges, lay siege to court halls, tamper with court records, appear in court under the influence of liquor, spread unsubstantiated allegations against judges or accept money either in the name of a judge or on the pretext of influencing him.
The recent amendment empowers not only the HC but also the principal district judges (PDJ) in every district to debar lawyers indulging in misconduct. The young lawyers and the practitioners in the lower courts are worried that for the first time the district judges have been allowed to take action. They are not happy with this situation.