Sunday, August 24, 2008

Astonishing behavior by the Bar Council of India

A few months ago, in an important case where the young man of an important and powerful family is on trial for the drunken running over of some poor people in Delhi, there was a lot of commotion. What was revealed was the notion that India's judicial system could be as corrupt as other parts of the executive, when a TV channel ran a sting program that revealed that the prosecution and defense lawyers in the case were hand-in-glove in trying to subvert the case, by offering the chief witness money to change his testimony. There was a lot of commotion and media reports at that time, and even the High Court has suo moto taken up the case. But then the reports died down, and the general impression was that this was a normal occurrence, that there would be a commotion and then things would die down.
However, that was not how this case would turn out. A few days back, the High Court passed its judgment in the case, and ruled that the 2 eminent lawyers (both of whom have been in practise for decades, and have held important positions including as a Member of Parliament) were indeed guilty, and slapped them on the wrist, not by disbarring them or hauling them for contempt of court (subverting the normal proceeding is similar to contempt of court), but by temporarily not allowing them to practise for 4 months.
And what was the response from the Bar Council, they protested against the usurping of authority by the High Court in banning them for 4 months, claiming that only the Bar Council could do so (although they have not done so):

Even though it steered clear of commenting on the merits of the case, BCI, led by its chairman Suraj Narain Prasad Sinha sought setting aside of the verdict, predicting it would set a wrong precedent vis a vis debarring of lawyers from practice. "As far as the merit of the judgement is concerned, we are not bothered... our stand is with regard to the powers encroached by the HC in directing the two senior advocates not to appear in HC and its subordinate courts for the next four months," Sinha said.
When asked what action is the regulatory body planning to take against Khan and Anand now that HC had held them guilty for "obstruction of justice", Sinha pointed out that it was state bar council, Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) which was still examining the issue. "If the disciplinary proceedings were not finally concluded within one year by the state Bar Council, the matter will be transferred to the BCI," the Chairman said. Interestingly, for all its indignation at what it sees as HC's "transgression", even the BCD has made little progress in its proceedings against the guilty duo.

Till the time that this article was written, there has been no action by the Bar Council of India against these 2 senior advocates, R K Anand and I U Khan. They don't care for the merits of the case, and don't care for what the public could think of; no wonder the public have a pretty bad opinion of advocates and lawyers.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 7:58 AM