Wednesday, December 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Strike by lawyers illegal: SC
Cannot be penalised for keeping away from strike

New Delhi, December 17
A day before the proposed nationwide strike by lawyers, the Supreme Court today came down heavily on them saying they have no right to go on strike, call for a boycott of the courts, or even go on a token abstention from court work.

“Lawyers have no right to go on strike, call for a boycott of courts or even go on a token strike,” a five-Judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice G B Pattanaik, Mr Justice M.B. Shah, Mr Justice Doraiswamy Raju, Mr Justice S.N. Variava and Mr Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari said.

Disposing of a batch of public interest litigations against strikes by lawyers paralysing the courts’ work much to the discomfiture of the litigants, the Bench said those advocates who refused to participate in the strikes called by Bar Associations could not be penalised.

“All lawyers must boldly refuse to abide by the strike calls given by Bar Associations,” Mr Justice Variava writing the judgement for the Bench said. “No threat or coercion of any kind can be held against an advocate for not participating in the strike,” he added.

Despite the clear ruling, the Bar Council of India, which had called for a nationwide lawyers strike tomorrow to protest against the Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act, 2002, providing for Lok Adalats in every public utility services department of the government, struck a defiant cord by saying that they were not in a position to call off the proposed strike.

Bar Council of India Vice-Chairman Adish C. Aggarwala said “the judgement is delivered at such a juncture that the council is in no position to rescind the joint decision taken on November 24 in consultation with all State Bar Councils to go on a strike on December 18.”

He said, “There is no time to call a joint meeting or even consult the office-bearers of the State Bar Councils on phone. Naturally our earlier decision would stand.”

The five-Judge Constitution Bench left no stones unturned in declaring that lawyers strike was prejudicial to the interest of administration of justice and went on to say that if the litigant suffered due to strike, the advocate concerned would have to pay damages. “The lawyer will be personally liable to pay cost to the court in addition to damages to the litigant, if both suffered due to the strike,” the Bench said.

Staying short of declaring the strike as illegal, the Bench said “the weapon of strike does more harm than good”. Mr Justice Shah, giving a separate but concurring judgement, said “on no ground, whether for just or unjust cause, the strike can be justified.”

Mr Justice Variava, who wrote the judgement for the Bench, said lawyers to protest against any injustice meted out to them could wear black badges and hold protest marches with placards and banners “outside and away from the courts” in a peaceful manner.

However, the court work would not be allowed to suffer, the Bench said, adding that “no court shall adjourn the hearing of a case if the lawyers go on strike.” PTI


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