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'Bar Council Of India's Notification Prohibiting Its Criticism Akin To UAPA' : Plea In Bombay High Court

Sharmeen Hakim
24 July 2021 12:06 PM GMT
Bar Council Of Indias Notification Prohibiting Its Criticism Akin To UAPA : Plea In Bombay High Court
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A Mumbai based lawyer has approached the Bombay High Court comparing the Bar Council of India's (BCI's) amended rules prohibiting BCI or a judge's public criticism to "suppressing dissent" under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. BCI's rules make criticising via print, social or electronic media'a misconduct' andground for disqualification, suspension or removal of...

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A Mumbai based lawyer has approached the Bombay High Court comparing the Bar Council of India's (BCI's) amended rules prohibiting BCI or a judge's public criticism to "suppressing dissent" under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

BCI's rules make criticising via print, social or electronic media'a misconduct' andground for disqualification, suspension or removal of membership from the Bar Council under section 35 of the Advocate's Act.

Following disapproval from several quarters, BCI said it has decided to form a review committee regarding amendments to Sections V and V-A of Chapter II of Part VI of the Bar Council of India Rules and to keep the rules in abeyance till the report is received.

However, the petition filed by Advocate Amritpal Singh Khalsa seeks a declaration that the notification is violative of Article 14, 19(1)(a), 21 of the constitution of India and subsequently directions for it to be quashed and set aside.

In the interim, Khalsa seeks directions to stay the notification, as, despite the BCI's review- announcement, the sword is still hanging on the top, and the threat looms large.

Khalsa further seeks to injunct the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana from approving the Rules. Under the proviso to 49(1) of the Advocate's Act, the Rules shall not have effect without his assent.

Accordingly, the CJI, along with BCI, its chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, Union Ministry of Law and Justice, Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, and five other Bar Associations are impleaded as respondents in the petition.

The plea states that prohibition for lawyers under the amended rules is 'absolute' as it bars publication of anything against a resolution or order of the Bar Council, which is an absolute infringement of the very freedom of speech and expression.

"The present impugned notification is akin to the draconian UAPA Act, which is quite frequently misused to harass, suppress and to smother the voice of dissent…It is difficult to believe that the Bar Council of India made such rules, which even the worst dictator, tyrant, would not have thought to."

The Bar Council of India has always failed miserably to protect the rights of the advocates, the plea states, adding that the Bar Council of India's standard after the appointment of Manan Kumar Mishra as the chairman has been "retrograde."

"It has never happened that Manan Kumar Mishra has been critical about the judges and the issues involving judiciary he has always supported the judges be it case of Sexual harassment by staffer against CJI, the allegations at the hands of YSR Reddy and many more issues. It has never happened that Bar Council of India has rose to the occasion and called a spade a spade. The other members of BCI are in harmony with Manan Kumar Mishra."

Khalsa states that "such a feeble Bar council is a threat to Rule of Law." He adds that the Bench finds its origin from the Bar. Therefore, such a notification, which leads to an environment where lawyers are under constant threat of being hauled under misconduct, will adversely impact the Bench. "The quality of judges from bar will have the shadow of the draconian notification."

If a lawyer crosses boundaries of criticism, recourse is available in the Contempt of Courts Act, the petitioner states.

The case will come up before a bench of Justices KK Tated and Prithviraj Chavan on July 30, 2021.


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