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SCOI Report: Judges eventually won over in P Bhushan toothy contempt case vs lawyer strikes, DHCBA, BCI, others [READ PETITION]

Bhushan asks for discipline
Bhushan asks for discipline

As Common Cause vs Abhijat & Others came up before justices Kurian Joseph and Arun Mishra at court No 13 on Friday (September 11) morning, Justice Arun Mishra tried to persuade Prashant Bhushan, counsel for Common Cause, not to go ahead with the contempt petition, as it would not serve any purpose. Justice Mishra said the onus is on the bar, which has to control the striking lawyers. “You have to discipline yourself”, he told Bhushan. When Bhushan said the bar is not interested in litigants, but only in politics, Justice Mishra said court is not the forum.

When Bhushan asked what then would be the remedy, Justice Mishra asked him to think it over, as contempt petitions would not help.

However, as Bhushan persisted, the bench issued notices to the respondents.

The petition was against the strike of lawyers in Delhi High Court and all district courts of Delhi on the tussle for pecuniary jurisdiction.

In May this year, the DHCBA went on a strike against the passage of a bill by Rajya Sabha to increase the pecuniary jurisdiction of district courts. The bill was subsequently passed by the Lok Sabha on August 5. The DHCBA again went on strike on the issue in July.

Abhijat is the secretary of the DHCBA and RK Wadhwa is the chairman of the Delhi Coordination Committee of District Bar Association. Both have been listed as respondents 1 and 2.

The bill is expected to reduce the workload of the Delhi high court by transferring thousands of civil suits, valued upto Rs two crores, to the six district courts. The Delhi High Court, before the passage of the bill, had the jurisdiction to deal with suits valued more than Rs.20 lakh, and this limit was sought to be raised to Rs.two crores.

In its contempt petition, Common Cause alleged that Abhijat willfully and deliberately disobeyed the explicit direction of the Supreme Court in Harish Uppal vs Union of India.

In Harish Uppal, the Supreme Court had held that lawyers had no right to go on strike and could not give any call for boycott. The court also held that lawyers refusing to respond to such a call could not be visited with any adverse consequences by the Bar Association or the Bar Council.

The contempt petition has sought issue of a writ of mandamus directing the Bar Council of India (BCI), listed as Respondent No 3, to incorporate appropriate rule prohibiting the use of strike by advocates in the Standards for Professional Conduct and Etiquette” framed under Section 49(1)(c) of the Advocates Act, 1961.

Petition vs lawyer strikes (PDF)

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