The Supreme Court has directed the Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils to explain what action it has taken against lawyers who indulge in illegal strikes.
The bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Aniruddha Bose made the following order after hearing Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the NGO Common Cause and contended that the Bar Council of India is not enforcing its own Resolutions and is not equally looking very effectively into the disciplinary control side also.
Let BCI file entire data showing what it has done for implementation of its Resolutions as well as disciplinary matters pending throughout the country with various Disciplinary Committees of the various State Bar Councils and how many matters on disciplinary side are pending before the BCI and for how long. Let data of all the State Bar Councils be furnished on an affidavit and also the data with respect to the periodic strikes and cease work which are taking place in the country at various places and reasons for that and also whether the State Bar Councils have initiated any disciplinary action against the lawyers for indulging into the strikes which are not permissible and contrary to the Resolution(s) of the Bar Council of India and the judgment(s) of this Court.
Mainly referring to the Judgment of the Supreme Court in Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal vs. Union of India, it was contended that the strikes by lawyers are not permissible and contrary to the Resolution(s) of the Bar Council of India and the judgment(s) of the Apex Court
The court has posted the matter to last week of September, and directed the BCI to file the affidavit of the Secretary, Bar Council of India.
SC Judgment on Lawyers Strike
In Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal vs. Union of India, a three judge bench had categorically held that lawyers have no right to go on strike or give a call for boycott, not even on a token strike. The protest, if any is required, can only be by giving press statements, TV interviews, carrying out of Court premises banners and/or placards, wearing black or white or any colour arm bands, peaceful protest marches outside and away from Court premises, going on dharnas or relay fasts etc., the court had said. It was further observed:
"All lawyers must boldly refuse to abide by any call for strike or boycott. No lawyer can be visited with any adverse consequences by the Association or the Council and no threat or coercion of any nature including that of expulsion can be held out. It is held that no Bar Council or Bar Association can permit calling of a meeting for purposes of considering a call for strike or boycott and requisition, if any, for such meeting must be ignored. It is held that only in the rarest of rare cases where the dignity, integrity and independence of the Bar and/or the Bench are at stake, Courts may ignore (turn a blind eye) to a protest abstention from work for not more than one day. It is being clarified that it will be for the Court to decide whether or not the issue involves dignity or integrity or independence of the Bar and/or the Bench. Therefore in such cases the President of the Bar must first consult the Chief Justice or the District Judge before Advocate decide to absent themselves from Court. The decision of the Chief Justice or the District Judge would be final and have to be abided by the Bar. It is held that Courts are under no obligation to adjourn matters because lawyers are on strike. On the contrary, it is the duty of all Courts to go on with matters on their boards even in the absence of lawyers. In other words, Courts must not be privy to strikes or calls for boycotts. It is held that if a lawyer, holding a Vakalat of a client, abstains from attending Court due to a strike call, he shall be personally liable to pay costs which shall be addition to damages which he might have to pay his client for loss suffered by him."
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