The Supreme Court has asked the Law Commission to review “all relevant aspects” relating to the law governing the legal profession, including issues like professional misconduct by lawyers, in consultation with all stakeholders.
“We request 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 Law Commission within six months thereafter. The Central Government may file an appropriate affidavit in this regard within one month after expiry of one year,” a three-judge bench headed by Justice Anil R Dave said.
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The bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, sought a review of the Advocates Act under which the the lawyers are governed.
The direction came in a verdict by which the apex court upheld the conviction of a Uttar Pradesh-based advocate for criminal contempt for intimidating and threatening a civil judge in Etah.
The bench upheld the decision of the Allahabad High Court convicting advocate Mahipal Singh Rana of criminal contempt.
It also affirmed the direction of the High Court that Rana shall not be permitted to appear in courts in Etah district until he undergoes the punishment for the contempt.
The direction assumes importance in the context of the recent instances of alleged violence by lawyers in Delhi and Chennai and strikes by lawyers in different parts of the country including Telangana.
The verdict, which stressed the need for review of the law governing the legal profession, said “there appears to be an urgent need to review the provisions of the Advocates Act dealing with regulatory mechanisms for the legal profession and other incidental issues, in consultation with all concerned.”
The court also said, “we do feel it necessary to say something further in continuation of repeated observations earlier made by this Court referred to above.
“Legal profession being the most important component of justice delivery system, it must continue to perform its significant role and regulatory mechanism and should not be seen to be wanting in taking prompt action against any malpractice.
“We have noticed the inaction of the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Bar Council of India inspite of direction in the impugned order of the High Court and inspite of notice to the Bar Council of India by this Court. We have also noticed the failure of all concerned to advert to the observations made by the Gujarat High Court 33 years ago,” the bench said.
The instant case of professional misconduct against the lawyer had begun in 2003 when the Civil judge (Senior Division), Etah wrote two letters to the District judge, Etah and the Registrar General of Allahabad High Court alleging misconduct on part of the lawyer in the court room on April 16, 2003.
As per the letters, the advocate had appeared in the court of the Civil judge and started threatening and shouting at him for passing an adverse order against his relative.
The Allahabad High Court initiated contempt proceedings on the basis of the letters against Rana. After hearing the parties concerned, the High Court sentenced Rana to simple imprisonment of two months with a fine of Rs 2,000.
The High Court also directed the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to consider the facts contained in the complaint of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) Etah and initiate appropriate proceedings against the advocate for professional misconduct.
Rana had moved the apex court against the judgement of the High Court.
While upholding the conviction of the lawyer, the court said, “the sentence of imprisonment awarded to the appellant is set aside in view of his advanced age but sentence of fine and default sentence are upheld”.
“Further direction that the appellant shall not be permitted to appear in courts in District Etah until he purges himself of contempt is also upheld.
“Under Section 24A of the Advocates Act, the enrollment of the appellant will stand suspended for two years from the date of this order; As a disciplinary measure for proved misconduct, the licence of the appellant will remain suspended for further five years,” it said.