In a recent order, the Central Information Commissioner has ruled that Bar Councils and Associations, being established under the Advocates Act, come under the purview of the Right to Information Act.
The CIC was hearing an appeal filed by Mr. Harinder Dhingra, who had sought information regarding the number of complaints filed against advocates under Section 35 of the Advocates Act in the past 10 years. He also sought to know the number of cases disposed of, number of advocates alleged to have committed misconduct or unethical conduct as per provisions of Advocates Act, etc. This information was sought with regard to the lawyers enrolled with the Bar Associations located at Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula and Gurgaon, for at least 3 years. He further demanded to know the number of disciplinary cases against advocates, which were sent to the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, at Chandigarh by the Bar Associations located at Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula and Gurgaon.
Prof. Sridhar Acharyulu observed that the Bar Council is a statutory body constituted under Advocates Act, 1961, “to protect ethical standards of Advocates and admonish the members for misconduct.” It then ruled that the information sought from the Bar Council cannot be denied to the appellant as it does not attract any exemption under the RTI Act.
The CIC further observed that even though Bar Associations are different from Bar Councils, they are also constituted under a law made by the Parliament, i.e. the Advocates Act, 1961. “They too have a duty to inform the people about their activities,” it ruled.
Finally the CIC issued the following directions;
1. The Commission directs the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana, Chandigarh to furnish the information sought. The action taken under Section 35 by the Bar Council should be published under Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act on their own without anybody need to see it. 2. The Complaints also might have emanated from district bar associations and reach the Bar Council of the State. Though Bar Associations are different from Bar Councils, they are also constituted under a law made by Parliament, i.e., the Advocates Act, 1961. They too have a duty to inform the people about their activities. The Commission, therefore, directs the Presidents of the Bar Associations at Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula and Gurgaon, to provide copies of complaints against, if any, forwarded by them to the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh. 3. The Commission also directs the FAA/Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana, Chandigarh to show cause why disciplinary action cannot be recommended against him for not taking up the first appeal of the appellant.
Read the order here.