Striking lawyers don’t deserve any protection, says top court

Updated on Nov 29, 2022 06:07 AM IST

Lawyers striking work and impeding courts from hearing cases deserve no protection of the profession and should be arrested for the misdemeanour, the Supreme Court observed on Monday.

Supreme Court has asked Odisha government to take all necessary steps. (HT file)
Supreme Court has asked Odisha government to take all necessary steps. (HT file)
By, New Delhi

Lawyers striking work and impeding courts from hearing cases deserve no protection of the profession and should be arrested for the misdemeanour, the Supreme Court observed on Monday, directing the Odisha government to takes all necessary steps, including the power of preventive arrest, to ensure judicial works are not disrupted in the state due to advocates’ protests.

“When you (lawyers) obstruct the course of justice, you lose the respect and privilege of being the members of the bar...If you don’t want to work, leave the profession. Court work can’t stop, that’s all,” said a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka, as it took strong exception to bar associations of several districts preventing judicial officers, court staff and litigants from conducting court proceedings.

Directing the Odisha government to ascertain the safety of judges, court staff and litigants, the bench said in its order: “We expect the police to provide security to not only judges but also willing members of the bar and litigants. All appropriate steps, including preventive arrests, that are required in the wisdom of the administration should be taken. It is the administration’s duty to ensure courts are functional and no ingress or egress is affected.”

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During the proceedings, the bench asked Odisha’s advocate general Ashok Parija: “Is the state government deprived of the power to arrest them? Arrest them... they have lost their privilege of being lawyers. They should be behind bars.” Parija, on his part, assured that the state government will give all police assistance as may be required for the functioning of the district courts.

The court, in its order, also asked the Bar Council of India (BCI) to withdraw licenses of the lawyers who continue to strike work despite the orders of the top court to abstain from disrupting the administration of justice. “We expect BCI to take appropriate action against all the member and accordingly we will expect their licenses should be revoked at least till the work is resumed,” it ordered.

The bench added that it is constrained to pass the orders to uphold the majesty of the law and to ensure access to justice. “If the leaders of the bar associations of Odisha seeks to invite harsh action, we will have to oblige them...You have no business to be on strike. Your role is to assist the litigants in accessing justice but you are the one obstructing justice,” it told the lawyer appearing for the central action committee, All Bar Association of Western Odisha.

Calling the situation “intolerable and unacceptable,” the bench said that the conduct of the advocates shows that there are many “so-called advocates” whose bread and butter is obviously not in the profession.

“You cannot be on strikes for so long if your bread and butter is in this profession. Clearly, your bread-and-butter is somewhere else. Let your licenses be revoked and you can go back to your primary profession,” it commented.

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The court lamented that judicial work in at least five districts, including Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar, was severely impacted due to the lawyers’ strikes, and asked the judicial officers to take up cases and pass appropriate orders.

About the bar associations’ demand to make additional benches of the high court in various districts including Cuttack and Sambalpur, the bench observed that the demand is evidently unreasonable, particularly in view of the video-conferencing facility being made available.

“You want five benches in the state...Why not outside every house in Odisha? Should there be a high court building outside every house? Odisha is not such a big state that several benches are required,” added the court, fixing the next hearing on December 12.

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