Supreme Court today issued notice to Delhi Bar Association, Delhi High Court Bar Association and Bar Council of India asking why action for contempt of court cannot be taken against lawyers bodies for willful violation of the constitution bench judgment of Supreme Court prohibiting strike by lawyers.Lawyers face Contempt
NGO Common Cause filed the Petition through its lawyer Prashant Bhushan. The PIL brought to the court’s notice recent prolonged strike of lawyers in Delhi High Court and all District Courts of Delhi on the tussle for pecuniary jurisdiction. The strike by Delhi Bar Association and High Court Bar Association had paralyzed work in Delhi High Court and subordinate courts in the national capital.
Bhushan has sought contempt of court against the two bodies.
“We are seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the respondents for willfully and deliberately disobeying the explicit direction of this Hon’ble Court issued vide judgment dated 17.12.2002 in the above mentioned Writ Petitions (Civil). This Hon’ble Court was pleased to observe lawyers have no right to go on strike nor can they give any call for boycott. This Hon’ble Court has further stated that lawyers refusing to respond to such a call cannot be visited with any adverse consequences by the Bar Association or the Bar Council.” the petition said.
Sr. Advocate Bhushan read out important paragraphs in the supreme court judgment (Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal vs Union Of India & Anr] which said
“…………In conclusion it is held that lawyers have no right to go on strike or give a call for boycott, not even on a token strike. The protest, if any is required, can only be by giving press statements, TV interviews, carrying out of Court premises banners and/or placards, wearing black or white or any colour arm bands, peaceful protest marches outside and away from Court premises, going on dharnas or relay fasts etc. It is held that lawyers holding Vakalats on behalf of their clients cannot attend Courts in pursuance to a call for strike or boycott.”
“All lawyers must boldly refuse to abide by any call for strike or boycott. No lawyer can be visited with any adverse consequences by the Association or the Council and no threat or coercion of any nature including that of expulsion can be held out.It is held that no Bar Council or Bar Association can permit calling of a meeting for purposes of considering a call for strike or boycott and requisition, if any, for such meeting must be ignored. It is held that only in the rarest of rare cases where the dignity, integrity and independence of the Bar and/or the Bench are at stake, Courts may ignore (turn a blind eye) to a protest abstention from work for not more than one day.”
“It is being clarified that it will be for the Court to decide whether or not the issue involves dignity or integrity or independence of the Bar and/or the Bench. Therefore in such cases the President of the Bar must first consult the Chief Justice or the District Judge before Advocate decide to absent themselves from Court. The decision of the Chief Justice or the District Judge would be final and have to be abided by the Bar. It is held that Courts are under no obligation to adjourn matters because lawyers are on strike.On the contrary, it is the duty of all Courts to go on with matters on their boards even in the absence of lawyers.
In other words, Courts must not be privy to strikes or calls for boycotts. It is held that if a lawyer, holding a Vakalat of a client, abstains from attending Court due to a strike call, he shall be personally liable to pay costs which shall be addition to damages which he might have to pay his client for loss”.
Ironically earlier in March,2015 itself the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu, which also had Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya Supreme Court of India had dismissed a public interest litigation that had sought to declare strikes by lawyers as illegal.while ststing that a judgment of the Constitution Bench was already there on the issue.
The Bench said, “This court has already given a judgment and laid down the procedure to be followed for calling a strike. It is for the Bar Council of India to take some measures. We can’t be giving directions. Litigants can always appear in the court in person if lawyers are unable to appear in court because of strike.”