Tamil Nadu-based advocate K Muthuramalingam won an undertaking from the state bar council last week in his Madras high court writ petition against the call for nationwide strikes by the Bar Council of India (BCI) and its chairman Manan Kumar Mishra.
Muthuramalingam had argued that the call for a strike by the BCI was illegal and contrary to the Supreme Court judgment in the 2003 Harish Uppal case, and was seeking the high court to declare the strike illegal and contrary to law and to pass an appropriate order.
In disposing of the petition, the bench of chief justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar declined to pass an order against the BCI or rule the call for a strike illegal, because counsel for the Tamil Nadu bar council - Pothiraj - gave an undertaking that the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry state bar council would not call for a boycott or strike in the state against the law commission report, according to Times of India and other reports.
The BCI via chairman Mishra had called for lawyers to go on strike, burning copies of the Law Commission report and demanding the resignation of its chairman, former judge BS Chauhan.
Muthuramalingam told us via email: “The double stand of BCI chairman should be exposed.”
“In rarest of rare cases where the independence of bar or bench at stake, one day boycott may be called, that too with the approval of the respective chief justice of the high court and from the district judge of that bar association located,” he added. “How can BCI called for agitations like burning law commission reports in front of court premises, seeking removal of law commission chairman, parliament ghero, jail bharo, picketing the law commission office?”
“It is highly condemnable,” he said. “Moreover the very same BCI chairman after consulting other BCI members forwarded suggestions to the law commission on 10.3.2017 [to outlaw strikes] then how can they now called for strikes.”
His petition noted that the BCI had responded to the Law Commission call for comments on 10 March 2017 - as we had also reported at the time of the release of the Commission’s report that appended Mishra’s draft and cover letter - on all topics other than the regulation of corporate law firms and the entry of foreign law firms.
In those recommendations, the BCI had called for a ban on strikes, though several days after publication of the Law Commission report, Mishra called for advocates to go on strike.
BCI had suspended petitioner for protest, now BCI wants to hold its own protests
Muthuramalingam also has an interesting history, as far as the BCI’s stance on protests goes.
He was suspended from practice in the interim by the BCI in November 2015, after he and 8 other advocates allegedly questioned a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) member in civil uniform who allegedly took a video of a female lawyer during frisking against her objections.
The CISF had been deployed to the Madras high court by its order after another group of advocates had allegedly protested inside the Madras high court chief justice’s court room.
For their allegedly peaceful (albeit heated) argument with the CISF member, the 9 advocates including Muthuramalingam were suspended by the BCI pending full disciplinary proceedings, with the BCI then transferring the matter (as well as several other disciplinary matters relating to other protests) to the Karnataka state bar council, which in November 2016 suspended Muthuramalingam for one year without setting off any the time he had already been under interim suspension by the BCI, according to Muthuramalingam.
He has now been suspended for more than one year and five months, he said. “The whole proceedings is being conducted without following any rule of law. All the procedures and law were thrown to winds,” he commented.