In an unprecedented move, the Bar Council of India on Sunday suspended 126 lawyers of Tamil Nadu, including 21 Bar leaders who have been spearheading the ongoing Court boycott.
This was pursuant to a resolution passed by the BCI, ostensibly in response to the call by the protesting lawyers to lay siege to the Madras High Court on Monday, protesting the recently amended rules to Advocates Act. The BCI will constitute a five-member panel to hold discussions with the State Bar Council and recognized Bar associations soon.
As per a release from BCI Chairman Mr. Manan Kumar Mishra, those suspended include P. Thirumalairajan, Chief Coordinator of the JAC, and M. Velmurugan, former member of Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Madras High Court Advocates Association Secretary Arivazhagan, Women Lawyers Association president Nalini and Egmore Bar Association president Chandan Bab.
“These persons shall not be allowed to practice in any court or other forum and they shall not be treated as an advocate for any purpose. The council further resolves to initiate disciplinary proceedings against these lawyers for the aforementioned misconduct and the proceedings will be held in different places,” a BCI release reportedly stated.
“It is because of these lawyers that the works of the court and the clients are held up and paralyzed for last two months,” it further said.
Mr. Mishra said the number of suspended lawyers could go up as charges against 84 more lawyers were being verified.
In an interview to The Hindu, Mr. Mishra justified the movie and stated, “You know that for the last 55 days, they (lawyers) have been on a strike, paralyzing many courts in the State. Though the Madras High Court has framed certain rules (for taking disciplinary action against errant lawyers), it cannot be made a ground for boycotting courts because the same court has kept the operation of the rule in abeyance. Now, a committee of five senior judges has been constituted and the Bar representatives have been requested to place their grievances before this committee. Instead of finding a solution, they (lawyers) are unnecessarily trying to prolong the strike. The BCI has to protect the rights and privileges of the advocates since 99.9 per cent of advocates in Tamil Nadu are sincere and practising advocates. They want to go back to court but, because of this handful of lawyers, they are being restrained from attending courts.”
“The Supreme Court recently criticized us saying the BCI does not take action against erring lawyers and some other regulatory mechanism should be devised. Therefore, we have to act. We cannot shut our eyes to such issues. Suspension of the lawyers does not mean that BCI has accepted the rules framed by the Madras High Court (to deal with errant lawyers),” he added.
Despite the suspensions, protesting lawyers gathered near the Madras High Court on Monday. They were however outnumbered by the police, shortly after they began sloganeering.
State Coordinator for Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu Advocates, Thirumalairajan, one of the 126 lawyers suspended by the BCI told the lawyers gathered for the protest to maintain peace and “patience and calm”. “Don’t fight with the police, don’t embarrass them… We are not fighting them,” he said, adding, “But our protest is strong and we will fight tooth and nail.”
Several District and Subordinate Courts have been witnessing boycotts and strikes against the Madras High Court’s new sets of disciplinary rules for the Advocates The new rules enable the Court to debar lawyers who indulge in objectionable behavior. In a notification published on 20th May 2016, new Rules 14A, 14B, 14C and 14D have been added to the existing Rules under Advocates Act.
The Madras High Court Advocates Association had earlier, in a unanimous resolution, expressed its “deep” concerns about the newly introduced amendments. The Association, in its resolution had said that these amendments “constitute a serious threat to the independence of the legal profession and will prevent advocates from discharging their duties without the constant fear that any emphatic and assertive argument will result in a judge terming it as “browbeating” leading to their debarment.”
The Chief Justice of Madras High Court had then assured BCTP that no action would be taken against advocates in furtherance of the Advocates Act, till a decision is taken on the recommendations put forth by the Bar Associations. You may read the LiveLaw article here.
Soon after, a full Court meeting of the High Court of Madras held on July 21 had resolved to receive representations regarding the new Rules from recognized Bar Associations, either directly or through the Registrar General of Madras High Court or through the principal District Judge concerned.
The BCI had however issued a warning to the leaders and office bearers of more than 250 lawyers’ associations in Tamil Nadu, that they would be suspended and debarred from contesting in Bar elections if they fail to call off the strike by July 22. This warning was given effect to by the unprecedented suspensions.