The self-regulated legal sector in India is in for a major revamp. The Law Commission, which was tasked by the Supreme Court in July to suggest amendments to the Advocates Act that governs legal practice in India, wants outsiders to rein in indisciplined lawyers.
In its report to the law ministry recommending amendments to the Indian Advocates Act 1961, which will be submitted next week, the panel will suggest forming a disciplinary body that has government nominees and those from outside the Bar Council of India (BCI) that is elected by lawyers, top sources in the commission told HT.
Right now, disciplinary matters are dealt with by the BCI and state bar councils under the law.
“The problem is that the BCI is a body elected by lawyers and it is not able to come down strongly on faltering lawyers. Self regulation hasn’t worked,” an official privy to the exercise added.
According to the BCI’s own estimates, as many as 40% advocates practising in Indian courts do not have the requisite professional qualifications. There have been instances of lawyers resorting to strikes or even violence in the past.
The Supreme Court’s reference itself came while listening to a case pertaining to contempt of court by a lawyer named Mahipal Singh Rana. There have also been instances of lawyers’ associations or the bar giving a call for withdrawing from cases.
The BCI had told the commission in a report last week that the council would co-opt senior advocates with 35 years of experience to become a part of the disciplinary committee. Sources said the commission is open to the suggestion but is likely to bring down the experience bar for such lawyers to 25 years.
However, it is likely to cite the model followed by the top doctors’ association — the Medical Council of India — or the apex body for architects —Council of Architecture. The commission feels elected bar representatives are partial to their own.
While referring the matter to the law panel last year, a three-judge bench of the SC had observed: “There appears to be an urgent need to review the provisions of the Advocates Act dealing with regulatory mechanism for the legal profession and other incidental issues, in consultation with all concerned.”
The panel had sought suggestions and comments from the BCI, state bar councils, associations and other lawyers’ bodies. The council set up a committee to make suggestions last year and recently wrote to the panel, saying the law should be amended to bar lawyers from striking work.