The judicial work in the Delhi High Court and all the six district courts here was today paralysed as lawyers abstained from work protesting a proposed Bill that bars advocates from holding agitation and makes them liable to compensate litigants if they go on strike. No effective judicial work was done in any of the courts here and the Bar associations appointed proxy counsel in each of the courts who took dates for the next hearing in the matters. While lawyers in the high court and district courts kept themselves away from proceedings, advocates in the Supreme Court showed their solidarity with the striking lawyers by wearing a white band on their arms.
The Bar Council of India (BCI), the apex body of lawyers, had given a call for the strike across the country, saying the recommendations were against their interests. “The strike was peaceful and lawyers completely cooperated with the BCI’s call to abstain from work. DHCBA has deputed proxy counsel in each of the courts of the high court so that the litigants do not suffer,” Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) Member Executive Manish Jain said. Advocate Neeraj, general secretary of Coordination Committee of bar associations of all Delhi district courts, said, “Lawyers did not appear in courts today. Only proxy counsel appeared for urgent matters but they did not wear proper attire to mark the protest.”
The work was affected at Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), High Court, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), he said. Besides the above, the judicial work was affected in the capital’s six district courts at Patiala House, Tis Hazari, Saket, Rohini, Karkardooma and Dwarka here.
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Lawyers were opposing the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017 proposed by the Law Commission of India which, among others, lays down the definition of “misconduct” which according to the BCI has only been defined in its rules. The BCI had yesterday claimed that “misconduct” has been defined in a “provocative” manner and would make it difficult and risky for a lawyer to accept the brief of any client. “Negligence, not showing due diligence, misbehaviour, dishonourable conduct (towards the client or towards the court or anybody) amounts to misconduct under the definition of Law Commission of India,” the BCI had said in a release.
The proposed changes in the Advocates Act also include removal of a lawyer’s name from the rolls if he or she abstains from court work.
The BCI had claimed that this will lead to usurping of their right to protest. The Law Commission has further proposed to impose a fine which may extend up to Rs 3 lakh and the cost of proceedings and also award compensation of such an amount, subject to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh as it may deem fit, payable to the person aggrieved by the misconduct of the advocate.
Lawyers would also be liable to pay compensation to litigants if they abstain from work even if the client has not paid the advocate. The non-payment of fees either in full or part by a person to his advocate shall not be a defence available for the lawyer against whom claim for compensation due to alleged misconduct or participation in strike or otherwise is made by the client.