26 Feb 2023 4:00 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the office bearers of the Bar Association Committee, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, in a contempt petition filed over alleged obstruction of the work of legal aid defence counsel appointed by the Legal Services Authority.A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud dispensed with the personal appearance of the office bearers. The matter will be next heard...
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the office bearers of the Bar Association Committee, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, in a contempt petition filed over alleged obstruction of the work of legal aid defence counsel appointed by the Legal Services Authority.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud dispensed with the personal appearance of the office bearers. The matter will be next heard on March 24, 2023.
The contempt petition has been filed by a number of public defenders from the Bharatpur district alleging that the district bar association and its office-bearers have been illegally restraining them from discharging their duties.
“The Petitioners, who are working as defence counsel under the legal services authority, neither have the intention to support the protest, nor have they initiated any non-cooperation in the agitation. They are being mentally tortured and verbally harassed for several days to join the protest and cooperate with the bar associations. The Bar Association Committee has also unanimously passed a resolution in August 2022, prohibiting any member of the association from applying for the post of defence counsel, and commanding members who are already engaged to either resign from the membership of the association or from their post.”
The petitioners, Advocates Purna Prakash Sharma, Puneet Kumar Garg, and Madhavendra Singh, have sought the initiation of contempt proceedings against the office-bearers, including the president of the bar association, for their ‘wilful and severe disobedience’ to the law as laid down in a landmark judgement on professional ethics, Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal v. Union of India, AIR 2003 SC 739. The Harish Uppal bench had soundly rejected the right of lawyers to go on strike or give a call for boycott.
In the present case, the petitioners have been accused of “opposing and weakening the movement” and “breaking the association” by the Bar Committee Association. Although they were initially served with a show cause notice by the office-bearers, eventually, their memberships were suspended for failing to fall in line. The petitioners have now sought urgent intervention of the top court against the office-bearers for “violating its directions by calling strikes and halting the court’s work with the ulterior motive of protesting against the actions of the National Legal Services Authority”. “The joint voice of the associations has failed the National Legal Services Authority and the Rajasthan Legal Services Authority,” the petitioners have claimed.
Lawyers in Bharatpur have been striking in protest against the introduction of the Legal Aid Defence Counsel Scheme in the district. “Due to the sudden introduction of the Legal Aid Defence Counsel Scheme in Bharatpur, the bar has been agitating against the legal services authorities. When the recruitment process was initiated, the collective leadership of the associations registered a protest against it. The movement was led by the president of the Bar Association Committee, and the convenor and president of the Bar Sangarsh Samiti,” the petitioners have explained.
This newly introduced scheme, which engages lawyers full-time to exclusively devote their effort to provide legal aid, assistance and representation to persons accused or convicted of crimes, was initially introduced in sessions courts in a few districts across the country as a pilot project but is gradually being extended to other parts of India as well as to other criminal courts. This is vastly different from the most predominant model of dispensing legal aid, which is by assigning cases to empanelled lawyers who also have private practices.The plaint has been filed through Supreme Court Advocate-on-Record Abhigya Kushwah.Case Details
Purnaprakash Sharma & Ors. v. Yashwant Singh Faujdar & Ors. | Contempt Petition (Civil) in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 132 of 1988