March 21, 2017
Recently, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has suggested stringent measures, including debarring advocates from practicing for participating in strikes or abstaining from court work. In its detailed suggestions to the Law Commission, which is drafting amendments to the Advocates Act on a reference made to it by the Supreme Court, the BCI said the law should be amended to statutorily prohibit lawyers from boycotting or abstaining from work in courts.
The BCI has recommended an amendment to be read as:
“No association of advocates or any member of the association, either individually or collectively, shall boycott or abstain from court work or cause obstruction in any form in court’s functioning during court’s working hours in court premises nor shall individually or collectively give a call for such boycott or abstinence from work during court hours.”
Any lawyer indulging in such activities would thus be construed to have committed misconduct and will be liable to be debarred from practicing in courts for a certain number of years or permanently.
These recommendations not only attack an Advocates right to strike and collectively abstain from work, but also severely restricts their right to collectively protest for demands of their profession. The right to strike flows from the fundamental right to form a union. The recommendations are an attempt to criminalize lawyer protests and struggles.
Protests and struggles by the lawyer community have played an immense role in safeguarding and promoting the rights of citizens. The Indian freedom struggle itself had the participation of numerous lawyers and to criminalize protests of the lawyer community is a severe attack on this longstanding contribution of lawyers in upholding constitutional values. In recent times, lawyers in India have taken to the streets and other reasonable forms of protest like strikes to condemn the increasing attacks on their community. The lawyer community in Pakistan too, had played and still continues to play a significant role in protecting the independency of the judiciary. The recommended criminalization of this form of protest will severely harm the interests of lawyers and the country as a whole.
Before recommending provisions with such far reaching consequences, the BCI did not even consult the State Bar Councils, Associations and other lawyers bodies. The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), strongly condemns these unilateral and unjust recommendations of the BCI and calls upon the Law Commission to reject the same.
Adv. Surendra Gadling (Nagpur),
Adv. Maharukh Adenwalla (Mumbai),
Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj (Bilaspur),
Adv. Ankit Grewal (Chandigarh)
Bar Council of India: firstname.lastname@example.org