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The Bar Council of India (BCI) Monday declared that lawyers all over the country will not attend court on March 31, in protest against the proposed changes in the Advocates Act, 1961 – which governs the conduct of lawyers. Calling it draconian and anti-lawyer, the BCI took a firm stand that it will oppose any proposed change that takes away lawyers’ right to strike and penalises those who skip appearance in court during a strike.
The BCI also said it will take up its objections to the changes with the government. The council’s stand is a turnaround from the recommendation by its president, Manan Mishra, to the Law Commission of India that lawyers who indulge in unjustified strikes should be fined and have their licences suspended. However, following protests in front of his office on March 23, Mishra had promised lawyers that he would take back his recommendation.
The Commission, under the instructions of the Supreme Court, is studying the necessary amendments that should be made to the Advocates Act. One of the changes it has suggested to the act is to debar lawyers and impose a fine on them if they abstain from work en masse.
“The commission has undermined the independence of the bar, and made a provision which could compel lawyers to face disciplinary proceedings before a disciplinary committee of five members, none of whom could be an advocate,” the BCI said.