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"Rules Would Have Chilling Effect On Lawyers' Participation In Public Life": Bar Association Of India Calls Upon BCI To Withdraw Its Recent Amendments

Srishti Ojha
4 July 2021 11:42 AM GMT
Rules Would Have Chilling Effect On Lawyers Participation In Public Life: Bar Association Of India Calls Upon BCI To Withdraw Its Recent Amendments
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The Bar Association of India has called on the Bar Council of India to restore the independence and dignity of the legal profession and forthwith withdraw the recent amendments made by BCI to the Bar Council Of India Rules. The Association has stated that merely keeping it in abeyance or placing the same before the Review Committee would not serve any purpose.The Bar Association of India...

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The Bar Association of India has called on the Bar Council of India to restore the independence and dignity of the legal profession and forthwith withdraw the recent amendments made by BCI to the Bar Council Of India Rules.

The Association has stated that merely keeping it in abeyance or placing the same before the Review Committee would not serve any purpose.

The Bar Association of India has also expressed its concern that through the amendment there is an attempt to usurp the power of contempt of court by the Bar Council of India by having a parallel process of enquiry on issues of allegation against members of the judiciary which is uncalled for.

The Bar Association of India in its Executive Committee Meeting held on Wednesday, 30th June, 2021 unanimously passed this resolution while expressing its deep concern about the notification dated 25th June, 2021 issued by the Bar Council of India amending the Bar Council of India Rules, whereby two new sections have been inserted in Part-VI, Chapter II of the Rules i.e. section V and VA.

"The amendments in an illegal and arbitrary manner prescribes that violation of section V and section VA shall result in suspension and removal from membership of such Bar Council." Association's Resolution reads.

The Bar Association of India expressed its concern stating that that the amended rules would have a chilling effect on lawyers' public engagement and participation in public life, and would impinge on their right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a) which is crucial for the healthy functioning of a democracy governed by the rule of law, which depends on a robust exchange of ideas.

The Association has further stated that the right to dissent is the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is in the interests of administration of justice that public criticism and public scrutiny of our institutions is permitted, and encouraged.

"The Bar Association of India is of the view that a fearless and independent Bar is imperative in a democracy to not only uphold the rights of the citizenry, but also to provide effective evaluation of the country's institutions. Members of the legal community must be able to work and express themselves in an atmosphere free of fear of reprisal for their work, or for participation in public life, in accordance with the standards laid out in our Constitution, in international human rights law, as well as international standards on role of lawyers." the Resolution reads.

While pointing out the 'serious procedural lacunae' in how these rules were notified, the Association has stated that Section 49 of the Advocates Act, 1961 gives the Bar Council of India the power to make rules, including the standards of professional conduct but the proviso to Section 49 specifies that rules made with reference to clause (c), shall not have effect "unless they have been approved by the Chief Justice of India." The said procedure however has been given a go by in the present case.

It may be noted that the Bar Council of India has recently amended rules to make 'criticism' and 'attack' of Bar Council decisions by members a misconduct and ground for disqualification or suspension or removal of membership of a member from the Bar Council.

The Amended Rules, which were notified in the Gazette on 25th June 2021 stated that an Advocate shall conduct himself/herself as a gentleman/gentle lady in his/her day to day life and he/she shall not do any unlawful act.

The Council stated that the amendments are made to address issues with regard to misconduct by Advocate/s and to improve the standards of professional conduct and etiquette for Advocates.

Click Here To Download/Read Resolution


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