'Hadtaal-pe-Hadtaal' by lawyers, across the courts ofIndia, is one of the three primary causes of 'Tareekh-pe-Tareekh' in five crore pending cases clogging the justice system. Senior Advocate, Salman Khurshid, along with moderator Manoj Raghuvanshi, laboured through a grilling online RoundTable discussion on 'Khul Ke' last Sunday, in a determined bid to find a solution to the vexed issue of lawyer strikes.
Although the Supreme Court has repeatedly pronounced that lawyers cannot go on strike, these pronouncements have not been successful in preventing these 'hadtaals' which have become a widespread bane for crores of innocent Indians suffering delay (meaning denial) for justice. Exactly ten days before this RoundTable conversation, lawyers had struck work in Gujarat, Telangana and Uttarakhand.
It was pointed out to Salman Khurshid that several courts spread across three districts of what is now Uttarakhand had resorted to a 35-year long strike by lawyers on every working Saturday. Also that the Uttarakhand High Court had dubbed these strikes illegal. When the matter was brought before the Supreme Court, it had commented very strongly, noting that the strikes were held on "flimsy" grounds, ranging from an earthquake in Nepal, a bomb blast at a school in Pakistan, to amending the constitution of Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court had decried it as a "joke", and ratified the High Court's decision that the strikes were illegal. Salman Khurshid regretted that sometimes the strikes turn violent, in which members of the bar who want to work are "roughed up".
The lawyer disclosed in the RoundTable discussion that it has been recommended many times by the Court that the Bar Association should have a Grievance Committee which should examine and approve every proposal of the Bar Associations to conduct a strike, but these Grievance Committees need to be "independent', and not consist of "yes-men" who will blindly approve every request for a strike.
The eminent advocate wondered if these strikes happened because some of "our colleagues" don't want to work, and just "look for excuses".
Salman Khurshid revealed that "no system" has been made to ensure that these strikes don't happen.
Although the High Courts and Supreme Court have sent some lawyers to jail for "contempt", but when it involves hundreds or thousands of lawyers, the judges find it hard to deal with the situation, Khurshid explained. The courts can't "send 5,000 lawyers to jail for contempt", emphasised the Panellist.
Salman Khurshid clarified that there is "legal culture" with which the lawyers can show their protest by wearing a "black band", or start work an hour "late", but the effort should be to not let the "critical cases" get affected.
In the RoundTable discussion, Salman Khurshid reiterated the words of the Chief Justice of India, D. Y. Chandrachud, that the real victims of these strikes are neither the judges, nor the lawyers, but the innocent "clients" who are very often extremely poor.
In fact, the renowned lawyer added, that in addition to the innocent people, even the "system of justice becomes a victim".
Salman Khurshid found merit in one particular suggestion during the Khul Ke RoundTable discussion on how to resolve the tangle of strikes. The difficulty of the Supreme Court in not being able to hold hundreds or thousands of lawyers responsible can be solved by just narrowing down the responsibility to two individuals: the bar functionary who signs the proposal for a strike and the reader or "peshkar" of the District Judge who "receives" the proposal. Salman agreed, but immediately added a rider that things are not always black and white. Sometimes there are "grey" areas.
Salman Khurshid concluded the online RoundTable discussion by suggesting that all these "issues" raised in the programme 'Tareekh-pe-Tareekh' should be thoroughly "examined" by a committee consisting of old judges, new judges, lawyers and also "you people" (meaning the Khul Ke viewers), and a solution should be found.