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BCI Mishra explains how 126 TN lawyers suspended: SC forced hand • No inquiry held • Got list of 126 from 'sources'

Manan Kumar Mishra explains BCI suspension of 126 TN advocates
Manan Kumar Mishra explains BCI suspension of 126 TN advocates

Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Manan Kumar Mishra was interviewed by The Hindu a few days ago about the Bar Council of India (BCI) decision to suspend 126 lawyers from Tamil Nadu for allegedly protesting against controversial disciplinary rules passed by the Madras high court.

Since Mishra only rarely gives (us) interviews these days, with due apology to The Hindu, we are quoting his responses in full (Emphasis and links added by us).

Mishra told The Hindu about what prompted this strong action:

You know that for the last 55 days, they (lawyers) have been on a strike, paralysing many courts in the State. Though the Madras high court has framed certain rules (for taking disciplinary action against errant lawyers), it cannot be made a ground for boycotting courts because the same court has kept the operation of the rule in abeyance.

Now, a committee of five senior judges has been constituted and the Bar representatives have been requested to place their grievances before this committee. Instead of finding a solution, they (lawyers) are unnecessarily trying to prolong the strike.

The BCI has to protect the rights and privileges of the advocates since 99.9 per cent of advocates in Tamil Nadu are sincere and practising advocates. They want to go back to court but, because of this handful of lawyers, they are being restrained from attending courts.

When asked about how the list was compiled, he said:

We got the list from the State Bar Council. We collected some names through our sources too. We received many mails from senior lawyers from the Madras high court as well.

First, I made an appeal to all the advocates, particularly to the so-called Joint Action Committee (of lawyers) to recall the strike. I said we will have a talk with the high court and the committee constituted by the high court.

I told them that the BCI is ready to intervene in the issue to find out some solution. But even after that, they gave a call for ransacking and gheraoing the high court. They have tried to involve the law students and spoil their career too.

When asked by the paper about allegations by Tamil Nadu lawyers that the BCI did not crack down in a similarly strong manner against protesting Telangana advocates or the the Patiala House advocates who allegedly beat up senior lawyers, journalists and a defendant, Mishra said:

We took action in the Patiala case and formed a committee but now the matter is pending before the Supreme Court which has directed us to wait until it decides the issue.

So far as Telangana is concerned, we have issued notice (to the lawyers). It has now been settled and I had a talk with the honourable Chief Justice there. In Tamil Nadu, it is abnormal. We take such an action only in extreme cases. In fact, this is the first time in history that we had to take such action.

When The Hindu asked about an allegation that Mishra was “acting at the behest of the judiciary here”, he said:

Now, what interest can I have with judges at the Madras high court? I am here to protect the interests of the lawyers. I have nothing to do with the judges.

The Supreme Court recently criticised us saying the BCI does not take action against erring lawyers and some other regulatory mechanism should be devised. Therefore, we have to act. We cannot shut our eyes to such issues.

Suspension of the lawyers does not mean that BCI has accepted the rules framed by the Madras high court (to deal with errant lawyers).

The Hindu then asked whether it was right to suspend lawyers without a preliminary inquiry. Mishra responded:

We had made several requests and issued reminders, but they (lawyers) went to the extent of saying that they will not allow the judges to enter the court halls.

It is unbecoming of the conduct expected of lawyers. Fifty-five days of strike, you see.

Imagine the plight of their clients and poor litigants. As responsible citizens, we should consider the plight of poor litigants who come to our doorsteps.

What of some of the 126 lawyers who claim they were not even part of the protests, asked The Hindu. Mishra said:

If any such member approaches the BCI, and we find that he or she was not involved, we will immediately withdraw the suspension. Punishing all lawyers is not our intention.

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