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FORUM
Q: Should lawyers resort to strikes?
This is the first instalment of readers’ response

Strike by lawyers amounts to injustice

Advocacy is a noble profession, whose main objective is to get justice for the client, but of late, advocates going on strike have made this target impossible to achieve. Even the Supreme Court has also termed strikes by advocates as illegal, as it amounts to injustice to the litigants.

There are two things that I see glaring in the lawyers’ fraternity. We don’t respect our own system of higher judiciary, and if we cannot do that ourselves, then how can we expect common litigants to respect our profession. Secondly, small advocates are being sacrificed for big political motives.

It is for the advocates that this largest democracy in the world has a system and a written Constitution. By going on strike, our fraternity has been behaving like small-time labourers, forgetting that our respect lies in our work. I vote against strike by lawyers.

RATIKA MEHROTRA, Advocate, Delhi High Court

Often, the excuse is petty

Lawyers should keep it in mind that they are an important part of society and have moral duties and responsibilities that bear directly on the betterment of the country. Hence, they have no right to go on strike.

It has been observed that even on small matters, lawyers in one or the other part of the country go on strike, and the poor litigants are unable to know the reason for that.

Lawyers don’t just have no right to go on strike; they should not even give a call for boycott. Lawyers of the Delhi courts went on strike recently, as they were not happy with the opening of the court at Rohini. It is hard to understand how the opening of a new court can clash with their interests.

After five years, I will join this noble profession of lawyers, but I swear that I will never ever join any strike that may be harmful to the litigants. Even otherwise, I feel that lawyers should declare at the time of receiving their licence that they will not go on strike after joining this profession.

SUBASH C. TANEJA, Rohtak

Pay damages

Lawyers should never resort to strike because the nature of their work demands 24-hour devotion and affects not just one client, but numerous others. We have twisted the weapons that Gandhiji gave us to fight the British Raj. Most problems can be resolved without strikes, bandhs, rallies etc., but we choose to apply Bapu’s methods in a wrong way.

Our governments are also to be blamed. Professionals have very limited powers; they are neither autonomous nor accountable to anyone. No wonder, then, that our lawyers prefer to strike than take professional action. Doctors (in UP) recently resorted to the same mode, without caring for the sick and the dying. Many of their patients probably died during the strike.

Give the lawyers more autonomy to control their working lives, but, at the same time, impose high expectations, like paying damages to clients whose time gets wasted due to the strike.

N. PAUL SABHARWAL, Panchkula

Strike obstructs liberty

India is a democratic country and success of democracy lies in the ability of the judicial system to provide its citizens with a fair, inexpensive and expeditious justice. All this depends on the proper functioning of courts, which is sometimes hampered by the strike of the lawyers, which should not be allowed.

Strike obstructs the working of courts, which directly affects the life and liberty of thousands of persons who are on trial or in jail. Lakhs of cases are pending in the courts for so many years. Litigants have become old and some have even died waiting for the final judgment of their case. This prolonged delay in the delivery of justice has  become a peculiar problem of our judicial system and strike by lawyers further aggravates this.

Democracy cannot function effectively without the expeditious judicial system, that is why Robert F. Kennedy said: “Justice delayed is democracy denied.”

RUPINDERJEET PANDWALA, Dera Bassi

Otherwise, you don’t get heard

If striking work is a way of protest, lawyers also should be allowed to strike work indeed, if all the other avenues of redressing their grievances come to a naught. Every individual has the right to protest and voice his or her opinions, in a way that these are heard.

In India, strike is the only way to draw the attention of the authorities concerned. What’s wrong if the lawyers choose to register their protest in this manner?

When the whole country has forgotten their morals and ethics, why should a group of people be forced to remain just? Lawyers are also human beings. They also have the right to strike like any other professional, but their strike affects the common man more. They should not go on strike for silly reasons. They have their fundamental rights and, being educated, they should use these rights very selectively.

RITU SEHGAL, On e-mail

Bar bodies should try to avoid strike

Strike is the last weapon to get justice where no law is able resolve the problem. The question of strike by lawyers for getting their grievances redressed is not healthy in a democratic set-up. The lawyers are there to fight for justice to the aggrieved, but then who will fight for the cause of the lawyers? The Bar associations recognised by the judiciary can take up these problems with the authorities concerned. In case no solution is possible, then the course of law should be allowed to lead to a positive outcome. Strike by lawyers should be avoided at all costs.

N. M. HANSI, Ludhiana

Cut flaws to end strikes

This question is a bit situational and restricted to circumstances. When the paper requests and other peaceful means are proved useless, strikes are the most common way adopted for getting the grievances redressed. If the employees of banking, education and transport sectors can resort to strike, lawyers would not want to be denied.

Should being a lawyer deny you the right to present your problems in the way others do? Although strikes paralyse life for a moment, but these go a long way in getting the problems heard. Nowadays strikes are the called “Rambaan” by the officials themselves.

Rather than commenting on the strikes by the lawyers, one should focus on what forced them to go on strike.

The very moment the system is flawless, strikes will disappear from society as quickly as honesty now looks to disappear. Asking the lawyers not to go on strike will violate their right to freedom of expression and speech, which even a convict enjoys. If they who are for protecting the rights are themselves discriminated against, we can well imagine the fate of tomorrow.

PAARTH ASHOK NARANG, Ludhiana

Strike is an arm-twisting tactic

Being citizens of free and democratic India, lawyers have every right to resort to strike, but for a right and just cause concerning their profession, not in the individual interest. Disputes with the administration should be left to the law of the land.

Lawyers should do no such thing that could cause inconvenience to their valued clients. Strike is at best an arm-twisting tactic and is a misuse of the profession. Instances are there when the lawyers have resorted to strike even against things planned for the convenience and benefit of the litigants.

No sane person can appreciate a strike by the lawyers over things like their fellow lawyer getting a traffic ticket. Let him take shelter of law, but not of lawyers. Banning of strike by lawyers is ruled out because even their peers at the Bench resort to mass casual leave, which is nothing but another form of strike for the litigants.

R. S. PABLA, Chandigarh

Right to strike cannot be denied

When workers in all other private and government establishments, including the police, have the right to resort to strike, lawyers should also have this right. If certain services like healthcare, water, electricity and sewerage etc. are categorised as essential, then the grievances of these sectors should be redressed on priority, so, that the workers in these sectors are not compelled to go on strike.

Workers resort to strike only when all other means to address their grievances fail. The authorities concerned should sincerely look into their problems and solve these, and not take a rigid stand on these demands. India’s non-cooperation movement against the British was nothing but one long strike. Why deny that right to any section of society now? Even the Army should be allowed to go on strike.

It’s all due to the mess that politicians and bureaucrats have created. Unless persons at the helm of affairs learn to solve all problems, talking of the denial of the right to strike to persons in essential services is all crap. No section of society can be denied basics civil liberty and their right to resort to any course of action within the ambit of law.

L. B. S. THIND, Panchkula

II

In order to preserve the rights in the allocated trade, the formation of workers’ unions is a constitutional right of the groups of individuals working under a democratic set-up. Strike is the last resort to protest against the wrong attitude of the masters holding sway over the trade activities. So long as this constitutional right exists, strike—in implicit or explicit from—for a genuine cause or redressing of grievances on social ground will remain justified.

Lawyers also come under skilled wage earners and, so, they should not be considered separate entity from the working class.

The government should use of their powers for the greatest common good and desist from taking steps that may see a reaction in the form of strike.

NIRMAL KUMAR, Panchkula

Create forums to listen

The deafening cry of the litigants and the ever-increasing anxiety of the authorities concerned, who are worried how they would unload the mounting backlog of cases, is of utmost significance. It should be heard before the public loses it faith in the efficacy of the judiciary, a vital pillar that sustains democracy.

The question that arises is whether frequent strikes by the lawyers contribute towards piling of cases in courts. If the answer to that is yes, the main sufferers in this are the litigants, for no fault on their part. As a necessary corollary, a question arises as to what is the remedy for the malaise that has crept in the judicial system and the Executive?

Should the litigants and for that matter, their advocates, who are supposed to plead their interests, be silent spectators, when the egos of the different pillars of democracy tend to clash.

The solution lies in creating a mechanism to watch, to listen and to remedy the ills, so that the situation for a lawyers’ strike is warded off. The appearance of arbitrariness in the functioning of the judicial system has to be checked.

It cannot in denied that the lawyers who work in courts are in touch with the reality of the subsisting ills in the self-created judicial functioning, which induces frequent strikes by members of the Bar. It is correct that no individual lawyer would ordinarily come in the forefront, even if he or she has been wronged.

A sincere step towards this direction would bring in cohesion between the judiciary, the Executive and the lawyers, and the disposal of cases will be expedited and the strikes would be down to negligible.

JIWAN DASS CHECKERVARTI, Advocate, Una

Think of the litigants

“The lawyers should not resort to strike because, then, the litigants who come to attend the court proceedings from far are put to great inconvenience. It also delays justice further and “justice delayed is justice denied”. Rather they should help the courts in the early disposal of cases so that the backlog is not huge.

No one in the country should resort to strike, as strike blocks development, but the government, too, should sincerely try to redress the grievances of any aggrieved association of persons in the larger interest of the masses.

The top judicial men of two states had to resort to mass casual leave for one day, which amounts to strike, in order to raise their voice against the behaviour of their superior officer. In spite of the orders of the Supreme Court of India banning any strike by lawyers, the lawyers resort to it, so the apex court should take a serious view of the situation.

Dr RAMAN K. AGGARWAL, Phagwara

Put duty before privilege

Mostly, it’s the democratic countries where people are obsessed with the idea of confrontation rather than cooperation. The lawyers are the interface between the honourable Judges and the honest litigants and petitioners. They should not resort to strike like factory workers because their action would bring untold miseries and inconvenience to they who aspire to get justice as early as possible. If you aim at getting something for yourself for which you have to ignore someone else’s interest, you will definitely lose public sympathy. Obligations should come before privileges, as the judicial system revolves round the public good. Ignoring it is killing it.

Strikes and lockouts are undesirable anywhere in our civilised society. If you indeed want to change the mode of showing dissent, table negotiations and mutual understanding are better solutions.

MANJINDER SINGH SODHI, Malout, Muktsar

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