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Delhi HC strike v service tax coincides with Legal Services Bill protests

Advocates at courts throughout India are today observing a protest day, wearing black ribbons in opposition to the Legal Services Bill, coinciding with a Delhi High Court Bar Association strike against the service tax.

The Delhi High Court Bar Association in an emergency meeting yesterday (23 March) “took serious note of the proposed imposition of Service Tax on Advocates”, according to a notice on its website.

The notice reads:

“When a lawyer appears before a court of law, he pleads for justice and in that process, assists the Hon’ble Courts to arrive at a factually correct and legally tenable conclusion. The Executive Committee is therefore constrained to resolve that members of the Delhi High Court Bar Association shall as a mark of protest abstain from appearing before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court on 24.03.2011. The members are requested to co-operate. Appropriate arrangements for appointment of proxies in all the courts have been made. (A.S. Chandhiok) President”

Two proxy counsels appear in each court to adjourn matters on behalf of the striking lawyers.

The Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) has also vowed to challenge the service tax in court, and in 2009 litigators also went on strike against the service tax, which had only affected law firms providing advice to companies at that point. Now the regime has been expanded to include also individual advocates providing advice to businesses and to law firms advising individuals.

Twitter user Saima2000 joked on the microblogging service, in reference to today’s cricket match between India and Australia: “lawyers going on strike coincides with the match today...strange coincidence no!”

Legal Services Bill objections

Meanwhile, following a resolution by state bar councils on 12 March against the Legal Services Bill, which proposes a new super-regulator on top of the bar councils today has also been designated as a day of protest against the Bill.

Advocates at Bombay High Court and other courts are being given black ribbons to pin to their jackets when entering the court by the Maharashtra and Goa state bar council, according bar council member Karan Bhosale.

“At least on the appellate side we pinned ribbons on every lawyer coming inside – we are now headed to the bar room on the appellate side where we will be requesting people to wear their ribbon,” he said.

He explained that it was up to every state bar council to organise their own protests and that the Maharashtra and Goa state bar council decided for the symbolic ribbon. “We decided that there was not point in going on a strike and going on boycott – that would just inconvenience the litigants,” he said.

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