Needed urgently: Law for lawyers?

It has for long been argued and suggested that policing the police in India was a long pending need. However, the unprecedented acts of hooliganism and vandalism by a group of lawyers in the premises of Madras High Court has raised another relevant issue as well—how to bring the lawyers under the ambit of law? And, this surely is going to prove an arduous task, not less than that of policing the police or governing those at the helms of the government affairs. The incident happened while the lawyers were protesting against the attempt by local police to arrest some accused in connection with a complaint lodged by Subramanyam Swami. The protesters not only turned violent and attacked the police they also set ablaze some vehicles parked in the campus. Subsequently the police had to resort to lathi charge. This triggered the present round of crisis with the lawyers deciding to strike work demanding action against the "brutal police behaviour". While the repeated request by the Supreme Court of India failed to convince the lawyers to call off their strike, the apex court appointed a one man B N Srikrishna panel to probe into the episode. Terming the action and behaviours of some of the advocates as those of "hooligans and miscreants", the retired SC Judge in his 22-page report has also indicted the police "who went on a rampage and used excess force". "The group of lawyers were behaving like unruly and rioting mob. It is shame on our judicial system and a stigma on judicial history of our country," the report said. The crumbling system While lawyers are the part and parcel of the entire criminal justice system and the courts cannot function without the participation of the advocates, unfortunately a section of lawyers, in the recent times, have started taking the legal system in the country for granted. They have started believing that they can take law in their hands and still go unscathed because they run the show at the courts. The belief has led to a false sense security in them—that the courts will not take action or allow any action to be taken against them—something that has been a case in many similar incidents at various courts across the country. The situation has also worsened by inept handling of the matter by respective authorities and the judiciary that seems to be setting a wrong precedence. No wonder then that the Srikrishna panel report has rightly indicted the acting Chief Justice of Madras High Court saying his infirm and indecisive attitude allowed the situation to go from bad to worse. Detailing the series of incidents starting from pro-LTTE protests leading to the February 19 clashes, Justice Srikrishna in his report has said, "The soft policy adopted by the acting Chief Justice of Madras High Court and its administration sent out clearly a wrong message that encouraged and emboldened the lawyers to become law breakers." In a similar incident—though of smaller magnitude and intensity—a Patna High Court judge D D Jha was recently force to withdraw his order of arresting a lawyer for contempt of the court. Resisting his arrest the said advocate shouted to call his fellow lawyers in the court and soon they were all seen shouting slogans inside the court room. The episode continued till the said judge agreed to withdraw his order. Only few days before this incident, a section of lawyers and their clerks had raised slogans against the Chief Justice to protest a directive that necessitated the lawyers or their clerks to verify the stamps furnishing by them. The order was aimed at curbing use of fake stamps inside the court itself. The investigating agency had indicated the possibility of the involvement of some advocates in this case. However, the issue could be resolved only after the court decided to withdraw this order. Lawyer's hooliganism and acts of vandalism have also been witnessed by the Allahabad HC in more than one occasion. It may be recalled that a group of lawyers had thrashed Nithari Massacre accused Moninder Singh Pandher and Surendra Koli in the premises of Ghaziabad court itself. What done it? Experts suggest the rising cases of so called judicial activism as one of the root cause of such a disturbing trend. The frequent physical appearance of senior police and civil officers in the courts due to orders of courts have left an impression that the lawyers can teach any officer a lesson if their dictates are not complied with. Such incidents are common place in our country and thus are a matter of serious concerns. In fact, infirm and indecisive attitudes of the court have emboldened a section of lawyers who have started taking law in their hands. Expressing it displeasure on excessive judicial activism, the Supreme Court of India had in the case of Praveen Bhai Togadi versus State of Karnataka ruled that "courts should not normally interfere with matters relating to law and order which is primarily the domain of the concerned administrative authorities." In spite of this the trend of judicial activism in matters of enforcement of law and order continue to show upward direction. Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju has several times come down heavily against such trend and has preached the judiciary to do the real work of dispensation of justice rather than being swayed by public and media hype. The report of Justice Srikrishna has rightly sought the intervention of the apex court. The panel has also suggested framing of certain guidelines for the Bar. In fact, there is no rule whatsoever, in this matter and it is the Bar Council which regulates the activities of the advocates in India. Bar Councils of states and the Bar Council of India has been formed in accordance with section 3 and 4 of Advocates Act, 1961. Although this Act was amended in 2003, it fails to incorporate provisions therein to regulate the actions of the advocates. At present these bar councils are the only bodies that provide broader guidelines for the lawyers' conduct. Unfortunately, they are becoming ineffective. The bar councils sometimes succumb to the pressures of the lawyers and find themselves not in a position to tame the lawyers. For instance the Advocates Association in Madras High Court has suspended at least ten government advocates for participating in court proceedings. These developments are certainly not a good sign for the system that is responsible for dispensation of justice and the country's Parliament should now rise to take up and tackle the dangerous trend that is spreading like a pandemic contagion in Indian Judiciary. The time has come to frame a strict, elaborate and comprehensive law to ensure that such ailment is cured, and cured forever.
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