New Delhi, March 31
Judicial work across the country was crippled on Friday following a nationwide strike by advocates in protest against a proposed Bill that prohibits them from holding agitations and makes them liable to pay monetary compensation if they go on strike.
The strike call was given by the Bar Council of India (BCI), the apex body of advocates, which has termed the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017, “draconian” and one which will “completely destroy” the independence and autonomy of the Indian Bar.
“The strike was successful across the country. It was observed in all the high courts, district courts and lower courts. Lakhs of advocates in the entire country have voiced their protests against this draconian bill which if passed will completely rob the Bar’s independence,” BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra told IANS here.
According to Mishra, there are around 14 lakh advocates across the country.
In the national capital, lawyers at the high court and all six district courts—Patiala House, Tis Hazari, Rohini, Karkardooma, Saket and Dwarka - observed the strike. Lawyers from the Supreme Court did not participate but extended their support.
“None of the lawyers appeared before the court as we have decided to abstain from work. The strike is successful,” said New Delhi Bar Association President Santosh Mishra.
Judicial work was also affected across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh with the courts adjourning hearing of cases due to the strike.
The situation was similar in West Bengal with the State Bar Council claiming the strike to be successful.
“Around 60,000 advocates across Bengal abstained from judicial work in response to the strike,” Bar Council of West Bengal Vice Chairman Prasun Kumar Datta told IANS.
In Maharashtra and Goa, the majority of the nearly 1.5 lakh advocates abstained from work.
Activist lawyer Ashish Mehta in Mumbai said that all the bar associations in Maharashtra have passed resolutions supporting the BCI’s strike call, but more than 30 per cent of the advocates were present in different courts.
The Mumbai High Court on Thursday had urged lawyers to be responsible in the interest of the litigants.
Kerala High Court advocate A. Jayasankar said the strike was “total” in the state, but added it was his personal opinion that it was needless and unwarranted.
“My personal opinion is that the lawyers should never resort to a strike and it should happen only if the situation is really grave and serious. I don’t think the reasons for going on a strike today is anything serious,” said Jayasankar.
Judicial work was also affected in Uttar Pradesh with lawyers abstaining from work across district courts as well as at the Allahabad High Court.
The strike call was given following the Law Commission’s latest report in which it has recommended sweeping changes in the Advocates Act including prohibiting lawyers from going on strikes and making them liable for monetary compensation for misconduct or going on a strike.
“Advocates’ conduct in courts, behaviour with litigants and their unprofessional conduct, including the act of going on frequent strikes as a measure of protest for irrelevant issues, has reached terrifying proportions,” it said in the report submitted to the government on March 23.
With reasons ranging from “bomb blast in Pakistan” to a “kavi sammelan (poets conference)”, the panel has said that it “could not find any convincing reasons” for the advocates resorting to strikes or abstaining from work.
Providing a wide definition of “misconduct” by advocates, the Law Commission has also proposed imposing a fine extending up to Rs 3 lakh or a compensation to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh payable to the person aggrieved by the misconduct of an advocate.
The BCI has also opposed the definition of “misconduct”, saying it has been defined in a “provocative way”, making it “risky and difficult” for advocates to accept the brief of any client. — IANS
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