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To Address Problem Of Lawyers' Strikes, Supreme Court Mulls Constitution Of Grievance Committees At Local Levels

Srishti Ojha
20 Sep 2021 8:11 AM GMT
To Address Problem Of Lawyers Strikes, Supreme Court Mulls Constitution Of Grievance Committees At Local Levels
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The Supreme Court on Monday decided to pass a comprehensive detailed order on how to deal with the problem of lawyers' strikes and court boycotts. The Court observed that a detailed order needs to be passed, since despite the firm stand taken by Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils that illegal and unreasonable strikes and boycotts can never be approved or encouraged,...

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The Supreme Court on Monday decided to pass a comprehensive detailed order on how to deal with the problem of lawyers' strikes and court boycotts.

The Court observed that a detailed order needs to be passed, since despite the firm stand taken by Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils that illegal and unreasonable strikes and boycotts can never be approved or encouraged, lawyers' strikes and court boycotts are still happening.

The Court also indicated that it will consider the passing of a direction to constitute grievance redressal committees at local levels to listen to the problems of advocates associations so that strikes can be avoided.

A Bench comprising Justice MR Shah and AS Bopanna observed that in view of pendency of large cases, when common man and litigants are waiting for their turn for a number of years, it is not possible to afford such strikes and boycotting of Courts.

The Bench recorded that, "Despite the firm stand taken by BCI not to encourage boycott of courts, still in some taluka and district courts and even some High Courts, the strikes are called and courts are boycotted. We would like to pass a comprehensive detailed order on how to deal with the problem of boycotting the Courts and going on strikes by the Advocates. Nowadays in view of pendency of large cases, when common man and litigants are waiting for their turn for a number of years, we cannot afford such strikes and boycotting of Courts. If litigants do not get timely justice, ultimately it will effect rule of law and credibility of justice delivery system. Therefore a detailed order will be passed. List on 4th October."

The Bench made the observations after taking on record the submissions made by Senior Advocate Manan Kumar Mishra appearing on behalf of the Bar Council of India that a meeting of office-bearers of all Bar Councils was held at BCI and issue of strike/boycott was discussed and there was a unanimous view expressed by all representatives of State Bar Councils that illegal and unreasonable strikes and boycotts are always bad and bar councils can never approve or encourage such practices.

The Bench also made a note of Mr Mishra's submission that to redress the grievances of advocates, there should be a Grievance Redressal Mechanism available to all Advocates at all levels from Taluka/ District courts, High Court, Supreme Court where members of bar could vent their grievances.

During the hearing, Mr Mishra appearing for BCI submitted before the Court that a Grievance Redressal Forum can be constituted to listen to the Associations and to redress their grievances.

The Bench however suggested that the Bar Council of India can constitute a grievance committee at the State level and direct all state counsel to have grievance committee and problems may be sent to the State Bar Council and Grievance committee may look into it.

Mr Mishra however opined that the directions need to come from the Court, as most of the time, the grievance is either against police authorities or some administrative authorities. He further suggested that notice can be to all state governments and their opinions can also be taken.

The Bench stated that, "What we can do is make some observations in our order directing all High Courts to see that the grievance committee in district courts, consisting of one district judge and senior most judge and chief judicial magistrate is constituted. So whatever problems are there it can be addressed to them. If its not resolved the concerned association may approach the High Court committee. At the same pending the complaint, there should be no boycott. If boycott is done, what will you do?"

"BCI and state bar councils will take note of that. Once the matter is referred to a forum constituted by this court, there will be no strike. No boycott. We will suspend the office bearer or any advocate giving such calls or continuing such strikes." Mr Mishra said.

"You can suspend concerned person also who go on strike?" the Bench said.

"Yes" Mr Mishra responded.

"Then you say that on affidavit, so we observe in our order that BCI proposes this. Now we don't want any boycott or strike", the Bench said.

Mr Mishra further stated that "We want that some forum should be there to listen to the Associations, to redress grievances of advocates. Most of the times it is the police atrocities, police authorities enter into Bar Associations, they resort to lathi-charge, and there is no one to listen to the bar associations and they are helpless. If that is done all problems would be solved."

The Bench was hearing a matter where it had taken suo moto cognisance & issued notices to BCI & all State Bar Councils to suggest further course of action & give concrete suggestions to deal with problem of strikes/abstaining work by lawyers.

On the last occasion, the Bar Council of India had informed the Court that it is proposing to frame rules to curtail strikes by lawyers and court boycotts and to take action against bar associations who act in beach and against advocates who promote such strikes through social media.

The Court had therefore asked the BCI to file an affidavit on steps taken.

On February 28, 2020, the Supreme Court, taking a serious note of the fact that despite consistent decisions of the Court, the lawyers/Bar Associations go on strikes, had taken suo moto cognisance and issued notices to the Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils to suggest the further course of action and to give concrete suggestions to deal with the problem of strikes/abstaining the work by the lawyers.

The suo motu action of the Court came while dismissing an appeal filed by the District Bar Association Dehradun against a judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court which declared the lawyers' strikes illegal.

In that judgement, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah categorically had held that boycott of courts by advocates was illegal, and cannot be justified as an exercise of right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

Case Title: District Bar Association Dehradun v. Ishwar Shandilya & Ors.

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