The Supreme Court has asked the Law Commission to examine all relevant aspects relating to the regulation of the legal profession in India after the Bar Council of India (BCI) and state bar councils failed to act against lawyers committing professional misconduct.
India has close to 1.2 million lawyers whose professional conduct is regulated by the BCI and state bar councils. BCI also regulates legal education in the country being pursued by almost half a million students of which 60,000 to 70,000 graduate every year.
It is also tasked with conducting the All India Bar Examination for fresh law graduates – a pre-condition for them to be eligible to practise law.
But of late, the BCI has been embroiled in many controversies with its chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra himself admitting that over 30% of lawyers have fake degrees.
“There appears to be 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,” a three-judge bench headed by justice AR Dave said.
“Legal profession being the most important component of justice delivery system, it must continue to perform its significant role and regulatory mechanism and should not be seen to be wanting in taking prompt action against any malpractice,” the SC said on Tuesday.
The top court ruled that an advocate convicted of contempt of court cannot appear before courts.
Upholding an Allahabad high court order convicting advocate Mahipal Singh Rana of contempt of court, the bench debarred him from practice for two years.
As a disciplinary measure for proved misconduct, it ordered: “The licence of the appellant (Rana) will stand suspended for a further period of five years. He will also remain debarred from appearing in any court in District Etah even after five years unless he purges himself of contempt.”
The HC on December 2, 2005, found Rana guilty of Criminal Contempt for intimidating and threatening a senior civil judge in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah on April 16, 2003, and May 13, 2003, and sentenced him to simple imprisonment of two months with a fine of Rs. 2,000.
In default of payment of the fine, he was ordered to remain in jail for another two weeks.
The SC, however, set aside the sentence of imprisonment in view of Rana’s advanced age and also because he had been disqualified from appearing before courts.
The fact that Rana refused to tender an apology for his conduct; had no remorse and justified himself, again and again, showed he had no regards for the majesty of the law, the bench noted.
The HC directed the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to initiate “appropriate proceedings” against Rana for professional misconduct. But the bar council did not act on the matter for over 10 years.
The SC said where bar councils failed to take action against advocates committing professional misconduct resulting into contempt of court, courts could exercise their own power for punishing them for such misconduct.