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An Advocate cannot join in an action to Boycott the Court: SC

District Bar Association, Dehradun through its secretary Vs  Ishwar Shandilya & ors , SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 5440 OF 2020 – February 28, 2020 A bench including Justice Arun Mishra and M R Shah held that boycott of courts is illegal and it is not justified under right to freedom of speech and expression (article 19(1) of constitution India).  The district court has directed that bar council that under Section 34 of the Advocates Act, the High Courts would frame necessary rules so that appropriate actions can be taken against defaulting by advocates. Even because of these strikes the Justice cannot be accessed to the litigants.

The brief facts of the case are as follows; On 28 February 2020 the Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed that the advocates of Dehradun, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar were engaged in strike by boycotting courts. The supreme court observed that every Saturday, the Dehradun district court advocates were on strikes since 455 days and in Haridwar district it is 515 days i.e., nearly past 35 years. As the court had objected it they applied for special leave petition. The high court was in an opinion that, because of strikes made by advocates has affected the working of court.

Shri Mahabir Singh, Senior Advocate who was appearing on behalf of petitioner stated that right to go in strikes or boycotting courts comes under the freedom of speech and expression, under article 19 (1) (a) of constitution and also stated that strike is a peaceful way of objection. He asked for the protection conferred by section 48 of advocates act as it was done in a good faith and therefore the directions of high court against the advocates would be different to the protection consult by section 48 of advocates act. They requested the court for granting a special leave petition.

On the other hand, the learned advocate on behalf of defendant stated that the Supreme Court and high court in different judgments has clearly stated that lawyers strike is illegal. An advocate being an officer of the court is bound to follow the rules in the strict sense. Advocates are bonded to maintain rules on professional conduct etiquettes which has been mentioned in chapter 2 part 4 of the bar council of India rules. Under this section the advocates are abide by the certain duties towards the court and their clients.

In HUSSAIN V. UNION OF INDIA the court had clearly stated that the lawyers strike and suspension of the court is illegal and it is high time that legal fertility realized its duty to other society which is foremost.

The Court stated that;

To go on strike/boycott courts cannot be justified under the guise of the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Nobody has the right to go on strike/boycott courts. Even, such a right, if any, cannot affect the rights of others and more particularly, the right of Speedy Justice guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The court observed that, according to Advocate Act, 1961, an advocate cannot join in an action to boycott the court. Article 19 (1) (a), freedom of speech and expression is not a valid justification to go on Strikes and boycotting of courts. It is the violation of article 14 and 21 of the constitution, the right of speedy justice. In the case of Ex-Capt Harish Uppal v. Union of India it was stated that strike and suspension of court is illegal. So hence, boycotting courts on every Saturday are not at all justifiable. Therefore the Special leave petition deserves to be dismissed.

It is further observed that the Bar Associations may be separate bodies but all advocates who are members of such associations are under disciplinary jurisdiction of the Bar Councils and thus the Bar Councils can always control their conduct. Therefore, taking a serious note of the fact that despite the aforesaid decisions of this Court, still the lawyers/Bar Associations go on strikes, we take suo moto cognizance and issue notices to the Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils to suggest the further course of action and to give concrete suggestions to deal with the problem of strikes/abstaining the work by the lawyers. The Notices may be made returnable within six weeks from today. The Registry is directed to issue the notices to the Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils accordingly.

– Vishal Varma

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