As demands for transparency in the judiciary get shriller, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has taken an unusual step. The top regulator of the legal profession in India is conducting a nationwide “confidential survey” among lawyers on what ails the judiciary and the state of the profession.
The survey, the first of its kind, covers the controversial issues of judicial corruption and appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts. The BCI also wants to know about nepotism in judiciary or what in bar parlance has come to be known as the concept of “uncle judges”.
The BCI has sent an elaborate questionnaire to the chairmen of all state bar councils and presidents of high court bar associations along with a letter asking them to circulate it among their members for responses within a month from the date of its receipt.
The two-part, nine-page questionnaire contains 36 questions. The first part deals with the state of the legal profession and aims to ascertain the strength and weaknesses of the profession. The second part deals with some very controversial issues in the judiciary.
The BCI wants to know if there was rampant corruption in judiciary and how to deal with it. On the present secretive mode of appointment of judges to the SC and HCs, which has come under attack from a parliamentary panel, the BCI asked: “Is it fair and impartial? If not, what is your suggestion to make it transparent and fair?”
Another controversial matter raised by the BCI is the issue of “uncle judges”. “What is your view on the judges sitting in the same court centre where their near relatives, like children, nephews, in-laws etc. are practising?”
The BCI asked the lawyers to articulate their view on the quality and performance of the judiciary in their state, particularly, the high court.
In the letter dated February 22, BCI Chairman S Gopakumaran Nair said the exercise was aimed at collecting relevant data on a national basis to make an authoritative “empirical study” on the current status of the Indian legal profession.
The BCI said the findings would be used for all official purposes in future to improve the standard of the profession.
Assuring confidentiality to the lawyers, Nair said: “This is a very responsible job and part of your duty to assist the apex body to make a realistic study and arrive at right conclusions.” The BCI also asked the lawyers for their views on the entry of foreign lawyers and foreign law firms. It asked if there was a need for a central law like Advocates’ Protection Act on the lines of the Judges’ Protection Act, in view of “the increasing number of interference and onslaught on advocates’ professional freedom”.
Asked about the need for conducting such a survey, BCI member Jagdev told HT : “Basically we want to know from advocates whether the present system is transparent or not and how to improve it.” The Delhi High Court Bar Association has accepted the BCI’s request and started the process of sending the questionnaire to its members.