“The level of legal profession has really gone down. Something needs to be done about the profession. It needs some oxygen to restore its pristine glory.”
This is what a bench headed by Justice Kurien Joseph said in October last year while requesting the senior bar leaders and bar council of India (BCI) to do something to retrieve the situation.
Nine months on, another bench headed by Justice AR Dave on Tuesday asked the Law Commission to examine all relevant aspects relating to regulation of legal profession in India in view of “urgent need to review the provisions of the Advocates Act…”
Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra told HT: “We are going to file a review petition in the matter because the honourable court passed the order without giving us a hearing.”
Last year, Mishra had said that 30% of all lawyers in India were fake, holding fraudulent law degrees. The probe against former Delhi law minister Jitendra Tomar for holding a fake law degree could be just a tip of the iceberg.
To weed out criminal elements from the legal profession, Mishra said, BCI has framed Verification Rules 2015 under which educational certificates of lawyers and their criminal antecedents were being checked and action taken.
“This will bring out good results. But these aspects have not been looked into by the Supreme Court,” Mishra said.
Once feted as members of a noble profession, lawyers often hit headlines for wrong reasons. The violence against students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University at Patiala House Courts in February exposed how advocates vent their ire in a manner that does not behoove a profession dedicated to upholding the rule of law.
It reminded many of the February 17, 1988 incident when a 2000-strong mob, including lawyers, turned violent at the Tis Hazari Courts after IPS officer Kiran Bedi arrested a lawyer.
The disturbing trend is becoming an all-India phenomenon (See graphic). But what has forced the Supreme Court to take note of is the fact that advocates are not even sparing judges.
Last year, lawyers demanding Tamil to be allowed as the medium at the Madras High Court indulged in so much violence that the High Court had to order deployment of CISF personnel to replace state police at the court complex in Chennai.
The Supreme Court refused to interfere with the HC order saying, “You cannot allow the institution to be held to ransom. They (judges) felt they are totally insecure with the local police. They have asked CISF to step in. If CISF also fails then other forces may be asked to be called.”
BCI had to suspend licences of 52 lawyers and transfer the disciplinary proceedings against them to Karnataka State Bar Council as the atmosphere was not conducive in Tamil Nadu.
“Everything was brought under control by the BCI but recent decision of the Madras high court to take penal action against lawyers has again aggravated the situation,” Mishra said.
WHEN LAWYERS TOOK THE LAW INTO THEIR OWN HANDS
- July 5, 2016: The Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry warn lawyers who burned the effigy of Madras HC Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul as part of their indefinite boycott of courts. The lawyers were protesting the recent amendments to the rules under the Advocates Act.
- Feb 19, 2016: BCI decides to crack the whip on a group of unruly lawyers who indulged in violence at the Patiala House Court complex during the JNUSU leader Kanhaiya Kumar sedition case hearing. Later in March, BCI told the SC that it appointed a panel to probe the incident
- Feb 11, 2016: Lucknow lawyers go on a rampage, burn and damage vehicles and attack police, public and journalists against the alleged murder of a colleague
- Sept 14, 2015: Lawyers protest before Madras HC Chief Justice’s bench demanding that Tamil be made the official language. The BCI suspended 15 lawyers
- March 12, 2015: Killing of a lawyer in Allahabad allegedly by a cop sparks protests from advocates who torch nearly a dozen vehicles
- Sept 3, 2014: A group of lawyers attack the Washermenpet police station damaging several vehicles. The incident took place after an argument broke out at the time between a lawyer and a police officer about registering an FIR