Doctor approaches Supreme Court against striking Lawyers
An NRI doctor, Kunal Saha approached the Apex Court raising the issue of ongoing lawyer strike in Calcutta High Court contending that the advocates have no right to strike or boycott court proceedings to settle their personal grievances. A three-judge bench of Justices T S Thakur and V Gopala Gowda and R Banumath has agreed to hear his plea.
The Doctor in his petition claims that he “came to India to argue an appeal in person in the High Court but due to the ongoing strike it was difficult for him to continue to stay here for an indefinite period." He states that he has is not able to pursue his case in the Calcutta High Court as lawyers were boycotting a particular bench there. He urged the Apex Court clarify "whether some advocates can frustrate the course of delivery of timely justice by boycotting the proceedings before a court in order to settle their grievances against a particular judge." The plea also pointed out that the ongoing strike had brought endless miseries to numerous other litigants by causing needless delay in justice. In the petition, Saha contends that advocates have no right to strike or boycott court proceedings to settle their personal grievances.
Saha's wife had died due to gross medical negligence of a senior doctor. Supreme Court had awarded a compensation of around Rs 11.5 crore, to be paid by the doctor and some others. However, the same doctor was selected by the government of West Bengal for its highest award in medicine, 'Bangabibhusan'. It was in this context Saha moved High court praying for a direction to Government not to confer Bangabibushan to the doctor who was held responsible for gross medical negligence. Justices Girish Chandra Gupta and Shib Sadhan Sadhu of Calcutta High Court is yet to hear this petition.
Last month, the Lawyers had stayed away from Calcutta High Court , following the local High court bar association’s majority resolution, due to the heat. The Chief Justice had likened these striking lawyers to schoolchildren and had said that the decision to stay away from courts, was irritating and painful. The Supreme Court, in Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal vs Union Of India (2003) 2 SCC 45), has held that lawyers have no right to go on strike or give a call for boycott, not even on a token strike. That Judgment by the apex court concludes by issuing following directions
- The protest, if any is required, can only be by giving press statements, TV interviews, carrying out of Court premises banners and/or placards, wearing black or white or any colour arm bands, peaceful protect marches outside and away from Court premises, going on dharnas or relay fasts etc.
- All lawyers must boldly refuse to abide by any call for strike or boycott. No lawyer can be visited with any adverse consequences by the Association or the Council and no threat or coercion of any nature including that of expulsion can be held out.
- No Bar Council or Bar Association can permit calling of a meeting for purposes of considering a call for strike or boycott and requisition, if any, for such meeting must be ignored. It is held that only in the rarest of rare cases where the dignity, integrity and independence of the Bar and/or the Bench are at stake, Courts may ignore (turn a blind eye) to a protest abstention from work for not more than one day
- Courts are under no obligation to adjourn matters because lawyers are on strike. On the contrary, it is the duty of all Courts to go on with matters on their boards even in the absence of lawyers. In other words, Courts must not be privy to strikes or calls for boycotts.
If a lawyer, holding a Vakalat of a client, abstains from attending Court due to a strike call, he shall be personally liable to pay costs which shall be addition to damages which he might have to pay his client for loss suffered by him.