Supreme Court Stays Bar Association's Decision To Suspend Lawyers Working As Legal Aid Defence Counsel
In a temporary relief to three legal aid defence counsels, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the letter of the Bar Association Committee, Bharatpur which suspended them from the Association.The petitioners had approached the Supreme Court alleging that their work as legal aid defence counsel was being obstructed by the office bearers of the Bar Association Committee, Bharatpur, Rajasthan....
In a temporary relief to three legal aid defence counsels, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the letter of the Bar Association Committee, Bharatpur which suspended them from the Association.
The petitioners had approached the Supreme Court alleging that their work as legal aid defence counsel was being obstructed by the office bearers of the Bar Association Committee, Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The matter was heard by a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala.
The petitioners, Advocates Purna Prakash Sharma, Puneet Kumar Garg, and Madhavendra Singh, who were appointed as legal aid defence counsel by the legal services authority, have sought the initiation of contempt proceedings against the office-bearers, including the president of the bar association, for their ‘wilful and severe disobedience’ to the law as laid down in a landmark judgement on professional ethics, Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal v. Union of India, AIR 2003 SC 739. The Harish Uppal bench had soundly rejected the right of lawyers to go on strike or give a call for boycott.
In the present case, the petitioners have been accused of “opposing and weakening the movement” and “breaking the association” by the Bar Committee Association. Although they were initially served with a show cause notice by the office-bearers, eventually, their memberships were suspended for failing to fall in line. The petitioners have now sought urgent intervention of the top court against the office-bearers for “violating its directions by calling strikes and halting the court’s work with the ulterior motive of protesting against the actions of the National Legal Services Authority”. “The joint voice of the associations has failed the National Legal Services Authority and the Rajasthan Legal Services Authority,” the petitioners have claimed.
Lawyers in Bharatpur have been striking in protest against the introduction of the Legal Aid Defence Counsel Scheme in the district. “Due to the sudden introduction of the Legal Aid Defence Counsel Scheme in Bharatpur, the bar has been agitating against the legal services authorities. When the recruitment process was initiated, the collective leadership of the associations registered a protest against it. The movement was led by the president of the Bar Association Committee, and the convenor and president of the Bar Sangarsh Samiti,” the petitioners have explained.
This newly introduced scheme, which engages lawyers full-time to exclusively devote their effort to provide legal aid, assistance and representation to persons accused or convicted of crimes, was initially introduced in sessions courts in a few districts across the country as a pilot project but is gradually being extended to other parts of India as well as to other criminal courts. This is vastly different from the most predominant model of dispensing legal aid, which is by assigning cases to empanelled lawyers who also have private practices.
The Court has now posted the matter to April 21, 2023 to await the completion of service of notice on the respondents. The Court had earlier dispensed with the personal appearance of the contemnors.
Case Title: Purnaprakash Sharma & Ors. v. Yashwant Singh Faujdar & Ors. | Contempt Petition (Civil) in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 132 of 1988