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 Why is there unruliness in the legal profession in India?

By Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana

As to why the instances of recusal of Hon’ble Judges of Supreme Court of India and do citizens have a right to know why a judge has opted out of a case?

Justice Kurian Joseph answered it in the affirmative. “Being an institution whose hallmark is transparency, it is only proper that the judge discharging high and noble duties, at least broadly indicate the reasons for recusing from the case… it is the constitutional duty, as reflected in one’s oath, to be transparent and accountable, and hence, a judge is required to indicate reasons for his recusal from a particular case,” Justice Joseph said in his verdict on National Judicial Appointments Commission.

“People have a right to know why judges recuse themselves from cases. The need for people to know increases when judges – one after the other offer recusal, especially in matters of public and constitutional significance.” And there are many instances of recusal of Hon’ble Judges of Supreme Court of India.

What does it mean or imply? Do all the judges with impeccable integrity, honesty and qualitative competency not available ever in the judicial system?

“It is good that the judiciary is invoking Article 224-A at least now although it should have happened long ago. Only such judges with impeccable integrity, honesty and qualitative competency in quick disposal of cases should be appointed on temporary basis,” Mr. K.M. Nataraj, Additional Solicitor-General of India said.

Many office-bearers of the Karnataka State Bar Council and the Advocates’ Association, Bengaluru, have emphasised that only “non-controversial” judges should be appointed on ad hoc basis as Article 224-A of the Constitution gives discretion to the Chief Justice and the President of India while appointing retired judges.

B.V. Acharya, former Advocate-General and former member of the Law Commission of India, said that successive Chief Justices of the High Court should have invoked the power under Article 224 at regular intervals, while welcoming the move to use the services of retired or retiring judges temporarily to address the issue of backlog of cases.

Mr. B.V. Acharya, former Advocate-General and former member of the Law Commission of India, “Making it clear that only “deserving and meritorious” judges with “proven track record” can be taken back to the Bench, Mr. Acharya pointed out that a group of advocates, led by him, in 2010 had opposed the Bill to enhance retirement age of High Court judges to 65 from the present 62 as it would also benefit many “deadwoods” in the system.

Mr. A.R. Patil, chairman, Karnataka State Bar Council, said that only “non-controversial” judges should be considered as not all the retired or retiring judges could be considered for various reasons. ‘Only deserving judges must be brought back’, KRISHNAPRASAD wrote.


 Why is there unruliness in the legal profession in India?

By Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana

The Supreme Court of India to law panel: Examine act for lawyers’ conduct:
“Expressing serious concern over the deviant conduct and behaviour of lawyers across the country, the Supreme Court has asked the Law Commission to revisit the Advocates Act and analyse the provisions dealing with regulatory mechanism for the legal profession. The bench has requested the Law Commission of India to go into all relevant aspects relating to regulation of legal profession in consultation with all concerned at an early date. “We hope the government of India will consider taking further appropriate steps in the light of report of the commission within six months thereafter,” the bench said.”

To my mind, Hon’ble the Supreme Court of India is more competent to revisit the Advocates Act and analyse the provisions dealing with regulatory mechanism for the legal profession like ‘Madras HC issued Guidelines to clean the Legal Profession’.

But, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India seems avoided to do so for its own reasons.

Whether like and in view of the following allegation, the malpractices going on in the judicial system in India could be brushed aside-away so easily?

“The Kerala High Court on Wednesday upheld an order of Vigilance Court, Thiruvananthapuram, to register a case against Sandy George, lawyer appearing for an accused in a murder case at the Additional Sessions Court (Adhoc II), Thiruvananthapuram, in connection with the allegation of accepting bribe from an accused for influencing a complainant in the case. Even though his integrity was never questioned by the accused concerned, he preferred the complaint in order to shed light on the malpractices going on in the system. Such practices have to be weeded out for which prosecution is required,’’ the court said.

Once feted as members of a noble profession, lawyers often hit headlines for wrong reasons. The violence against students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University at Patiala House Courts in February exposed how advocates vent their ire in a manner that does not behoove a profession dedicated to upholding the rule of law.

‘Policemen cheered unruly lawyers on’: TNN | Feb 23, 2016, 12.38 AM IST: NEW DELHI: Policemen cheered on while lawyers thrashed Kanhaiya Kumar at Patiala House court last week. Gunning for Umar Khalid, they are planning "something big" in the next hearing, they said.

"They (cops) said 'sir if were not in uniform, we would also strike...we have a compulsion. We have to do our duty and earn our livelihood. Otherwise, we would have also hit...what you are doing is right but we have to do our duty. We have to take Kanahiya safely,'" claimed Yashpal Singh.

"Some (police) personnel were standing...they said 'good sir'. I said 'come'. They said, 'we are in uniform sir'," said Vikram Chauhan, who led the attack. His associate, Yashpal Singh, claimed policemen supported their act.

Madras HC issues Guidelines to clean the Legal Profession: “Concluding the Judgment it is held that “Criminalisation of Bar has already started and is spreading like a wild fire sullying, degrading and destroying the image and prestige of the noble profession.

As a member of the legal fraternity and the higher judiciary, for the past 30 years, this Court has been witnessing steep fall in the standards, steady invasion of the profession by criminal, communal and extremist elements, by purchasing law degrees without any basic qualifications and without attendance from Letter Pad Law Colleges and their attempt to disturb normal Court proceedings by boycotts, exhibition of unruly high handed behaviour inside and outside Court and committing offences and covering up by advocate’s label as explained in detail.

It is very unfortunate that the so-called Bar leaders and many of the Bar Council members are said to be associated with these elements.

If this menace is not prevented and curtailed, the day is not too far when Courts will be conducted as per the wishes of criminal elements and communal leaders ending the rule of law.

One needs to take a look at the grim and serious state of the legal profession practically.

As a member of the legal profession, this Court hopes that the issue of criminalization of the profession is seriously taken note of by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the Central Government and appropriate action be taken to redeem the profession from the clutches of persons with criminal background, communal elements with muscle power, persons with extremist ideology otherwise “NEETHI DEVATHAI” (Goddess of Justice) will not forgive all the stake holders of justice delivery system”.

Appearance before the court is subject to such conditions (the bench upheld the conviction of UP-based lawyer Mahipal Singh Rana for contempt of court after he had threatened a judge.) as are laid down by this court or the high court. An advocate could be debarred from appearing before the Court even if the disciplinary jurisdiction for misconduct was vested with the Bar Council of India or the Bar Council of the State concerned.

This is what a bench headed by Justice Kurien Joseph said in October last year while requesting the senior bar leaders and bar council of India (BCI) to do something to retrieve the situation.

The Court noted that the events in the recent past had made concerns raised on the quality of legal fraternity more relevant. “It is a matter of moment for our profession. We need to introspect. Some people among us are fighting, some are stoning, only few are arguing,” said the bench, also comprising Justices R Banumathi and UU Lalit.

Madras HC issues Guidelines to clean the Legal Profession: Bar Council of India shall not conduct the next Bar Council election, after expiry of the present term in 2016, without prescribing minimum qualification like 20 years standing in the Bar or a Senior counsel, who does not have any criminal case or criminal background for the candidates to contest Bar Council elections and till the verification of advocates is done as per “Bar Council of India Certificate and Place of practice (Verification) Rules 2015, by entrusting the functions to an expert body.

“Neither Legal Profession is an asylum for criminals Nor law Degrees are shields for their criminal activities ”. Legal profession is blighted by the entry of criminal elements. It is seen from a number of cases coming up before this court and also from media reports that persons with criminal background getting law degrees claiming to be advocates are indulging in criminal activities including conducting “Kangaroo Courts”, degrading and damaging the image of noble profession and for which we have to hang our heads down in shame”, said the court.


 Why is there unruliness in the legal profession in India?

By Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana

Legal Profession caught between Politics and Professionalism: Will the Real Lawyer Please ‘Stand Up’? Written By Barrister Tureen Afroz:

Gone are the days when legal profession used to be socially considered as a noble profession.
The image attached to the legal profession, once held high in the eyes of the people, is now under increasing attack, mostly by the lawyers themselves.

Common men used to look up to the lawyers as an expert of law as well as a social engineer, standing for the cause of humanity and voicing against various social, political and economic injustice.
Social image of the lawyers was thus to be equated with those of a real hero, who would always be on toe for guarding mass conscience. Lawyers were seen as successful vocal leaders of many social movements against exploitation, social, economic and political. People's confidence and respect for the legal profession was so high that a lawyer in a family would surely add to its social reputation.

However, the social image of lawyers is very much in crisis these days and that should alarm not only the profession but also the society, at large.

The nobility attached to the legal profession demands certain "professional duties" to be performed by the lawyers. The lawyers' professional duties and responsibilities can be categorized into four different groups:

Duty towards the Court: A lawyer is said to be an officer of the court. It is his paramount duty to assist the court to meet the end of justice. The lawyers are not to misguide the court or to intentionally obstruct the course of justice just to benefit his fraudulent client. They should avoid any kind of corrupt practices that might help them to win the case in hand. The lawyers should remember that they are required to perform their professional duties in such a way that common men's respect in the justice system is maintained at high level all the time.

Duty towards the Client: A lawyer should provide his best professional service to uphold the cause of his client and to use his expertise in assuring justice to his client from the court. The efficiency, with which a lawyer would represent his client, should never be compromised. The lawyers should utilize their 'due diligence' in handling their clients' case. They are expected to further the cause of their clients with utmost sincerity and to avoid any conflict of interest. Moreover, the lawyers should maintain the confidentiality of their clients' cases so that the matter does not get prejudiced.

Duty towards the Colleagues: Lawyers have certain professional responsibilities towards his colleagues, no matter whether they are associates, senior or junior, or lawyers of the opposite litigating party. Lawyers should always be respectful to each other and should maintain a healthy working environment both in the chamber and in the court premises. It is against professional ethics to criticize the efficiency of other colleague lawyers or to speak ill about them in public.

Duty towards the Society: The lawyers are considered to be social engineers. They have a duty towards the society at large. As respected citizens of the country, the lawyers should behave in such a way so that the legal profession stands as a model profession in the society.

Lawyers should of course raise their voice against any injustice inflicted upon innocents. They all should work, both individually and collectively, to establish rule of law in the society. Lawyers, as experts in law, should know that their views do influence public opinion and as such, they should guard against mis-utilization of their image in the society.


 Why is there unruliness in the legal profession in India?

By Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana

It must be stated that it is not an easy job for lawyers to perform all four categories of duties equally efficiently at the same time. However, a good professional lawyer would know how to strike a balance among various kinds of duties. Each category of the duties is important for lawyers and failure to perform any one of them would surely erode social trust on the legal profession. Therefore, it is crucial that lawyers should be in continuous vigilance of their own behaviour to protect the social image of the legal profession, as a whole.

In this background, it is stated that the current trend of increasing politicization of the legal profession is alarming. It is not only harmful for the profession per se but also to the society at large. Wholesale politicization of legal profession distorts the vision of pluralistic society where lawyers have a professional role to play.

There is nothing wrong in lawyers becoming politically conscious or even to be politically ambitious. I would say that every citizen has a right to do so.

However, the present practice of lawyers on compromising legal ethics and professional responsibilities to serve blindly their party-political interests should be condemned.

It is unfortunate to notice that many of the leading lawyers serve as reserved intellectual army to the political parties.

Their expertise and the position of social acceptability are used by these political parties to further their own political agenda.

It is shocking that some of the reputed lawyers have actually become mere puppets in the hands of national political leaders who would want such lawyers to work as a legal stamp, at times to their unreasonable party-political demands.

Professional lawyers are seen to be divided according to their party political beliefs so much so that they would sacrifice their professional responsibilities for the party-political interests.

Professionals could be a-political; but they should not compromise their professionalism for party politics, so long they are in pursuit of professional duties.

It is painful to observe that today's professional lawyers, being divided upon political affiliation, would attach polarized meaning to the provisions of Constitution to serve the wishes of their respective party politburo.

To add to the agony, certain behaviours of professional lawyers holding very high position in the legal profession are mainly guided by their party-political interests and ambitions.

It is stated that such trend of politicization of the legal profession should be consciously discouraged as it would cause some irreparable harms to the legal profession in future:

Firstly, the social image of lawyers would move from one of 'legal experts' to the one of 'political puppets';
Secondly, certain activities undertaken in the court premises in furtherance of party-political interests, would erode people's trust in the justice delivery system and also, in legal profession;

Thirdly, indiscriminate involvement in party politics would surely make the lawyers to compromise on their professional duties towards the court, their client, and their colleagues and as such, to the society;

Fourthly, it would set a very bad trend for new generation lawyers who are expected to learn 'professionalism' from their learned seniors.

It is, therefore, high time the legal profession realizes that moving away from professionalism would not bring any good to the profession in the long-run.

As professional lawyers they are committed to guard the reputation of their profession. The expectation from leaders in the legal profession is thus very high; for them it is urgent that they uphold the image of professionalism at any cost.


 Why is there unruliness in the legal profession in India?

By Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana

Having said so, I now consider it necessary to differentiate between 'pro-party politics' and 'pro-people politics':

Pro-people politics demands that political activists would raise their voice against any injustice inflicted upon the common people, irrespective of their class, race, gender or even party political affiliation.
On the other hand, pro-party politics is one where the political activists rest their blind faith in a particular political party, even when that party is found to have committed a wrong.

I sincerely believe that today's legal professionals should be engaged in pro-people politics, which would strengthen their bond with the society as a professional.

It is imperative that a real lawyer stands up for the cause of humanity. A real lawyer, being a respected professional, should be in a position to express his views and to criticise the wrongdoings in the society independent of any party politics.

A real lawyer should find it shameful to serve as a puppet in the hand of the political parties. Moreover, he should never ever let his professional place and position to be used as a pandemonium of any particular political party.

There are a few ways lawyers can be motivated to be more professional:

1. Teaching of legal ethics and professional responsibility should be given a very high priority in training and examination of lawyers, both at the academic stage and vocational stage;

2. The trainee lawyers undergoing pupillage at various law chambers should be closely monitored by the senior lawyers so that the trainees understand issues of legal ethics and professional responsibilities that might arise in day to day scenario;

3. Bar Council and Bar Associations should organize regular seminars on legal ethics and professional responsibility so as to establish the importance of professionalism among lawyers;

4. Bar Council should impose exemplary sanctions against lawyers who are in breach of their professional responsibilities;

5. Bar Council in conjunction with various Bar Associations can formulate Best Practice Rules for lawyers and keep continuously updating the same;

6. There should be regular publications (weekly or monthly) from Attorney General's office where members of bench and bar would write on the issue of legal ethics and professional responsibility;

7. Bar Associations of the country should function as "organizations of professional lawyers" and not as "organizations of political lawyers".

In conclusion, I repeat that there is no harm in lawyers becoming politically active.
However, the political agenda of real lawyers should never ever undermine their professional image - the professional lawyers, who would efficiently serve the court, the clients, the colleagues and the society without there being any fear, favour or force from any political party.

An extract courtesy by

“The Lawyer's Role in a Contemporary Democracy, Promoting Social Change and Political Values;
The Lawyer as Catalyst of Social Change”, James E. Moliterno rightly said.

Mr. KASHYAP VYAS, Senior Consultant at Infrastructure Project Management Consultant rightly said that the news: For Only Minority of Corrupt Advocates (I Do not mean to say that All Advocates and Judges are Corrupt as a whole) Off Course it is needless to say I/We Activists have huge respect & Honour Only for Honest Judges & Advocates , we salute such Advocates and Judges. We do not have any Hatred or Abusive feelings for Judges and Advocates Community. An extract from ‘Madras HC issues Guidelines to clean the Legal Profession’.

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the various authors, websites and newspapers I have consulted and upon some of whom I have drawn freely for exposition of various aspects of ‘Why is there unruliness in the legal profession in India?’

Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana
First posted on July 16, 2016 at 1:19 AM (IST)


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