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Round-up: After system + pendency reeled from Friday’s strikes, BCI Mishra calls for another ‘big demonstration’ in Delhi now

It is very unclear at this point as to which section of lawyers is against which change, but a majority of bar bodies (except the SCBA) seem to agree that strikes should remain the bar’s weapon of choice (despite BCI having proposed to ban them)

Mishra’s views that nationwide strike by lawyers are a good idea is shared by many, but not all
Mishra’s views that nationwide strike by lawyers are a good idea is shared by many, but not all

The Bar Council of India (BCI) call for a nationwide strike on Friday was joined by at least 3 lakh lawyers in various cities, disrupted court work across India, added pending litigation in thousands and perhaps resulted in the resignation of a bar council chairman in protest, even as the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and other bar leaders did not support the call.

But even before the dust from Friday’s strike had settled, BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra has already called for another “big demonstration” in Delhi through a protest march, in which his “young friends of Delhi, NCR and all across the country should participate”.

Taking stock of strike damage done

Advocate General Rohit Deo resigned as chairman of the Maharashtra Bar Council on “personal grounds”, but apparently also strongly opposed the strike, reported The Asian Age.

Deo later told Live Law about the strikes:

I do not approve of this. It is uncalled for. The Supreme Court has said courts can ignore one-day strike, if it is resorted to in exceptional situations such as to protect the independence of judiciary. However, this should be done by the permission of the chief justice of the high court or a district judge. Hence, the protest is not consistent with the view taken by the SC.

Pendency in Karnataka rose by more than 47,000 cases, reported The Hindu.

Proxy advocates took dates for the next hearing in cases, for which striking lawyers failed to appear in Delhi’s six district courts, various tribunals in the capital and the high court, reported The Financial Express.

Almost 80,000 lawyers were on strike in Rajasthan alone, reported The Business Standard.

The number of striking advocates in West Bengal was around 60,000, and in Maharashtra and Goa it was 1.5 lakh, and judicial work was affected at least in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Gujarat and Allahabad as well, reported The Tribune.

The call for a strike was intended to oppose the amendment to the Advocates Act 1961, proposed by the Law Commission of India which submitted the proposal to the law ministry last week, and which proposes to curtail the BCI’s disciplinary powers and impose a ban on lawyer strikes, among other changes.

Strike politics

Following Friday’s strike, BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra proposed next steps against the commission’s recommendations, which he dubbed “draconian”. In a Facebook post, which has been shared 25 times, has over 250 Likes and 40 mostly supportive comments at the time of going to press, he has said:

i) The BCI will meet tomorrow with the members of the Coordination Committee of All Delhi District Court Bar Associations. Mishra has also invited the SCBA to join this meeting, “if really interested”. He wrote on his Facebook profile on Saturday:

My request to u will b to take all steps to unite ourselves n discourage any implied attempt of any body to divide us. Delhi Lawyers have to play the major role.

ii) The future course of action discussed on 4 April, would be placed before the representatives of the state bar councils and bar associations, in four phases beginning 8 April onward.

iii) A protest march for a “big demonstration” in Delhi, with participation from lawyers across the country Mishra’s largest target support group – lawyers in Delhi – turned around from throwing shoes at him, burning effigies and demanding Mishra’s resignation on 24 March, under the leadership of the same coordination committee with which Mishra will meet tomorrow to plan a joint opposition to the law commission’s recommendations.

Bar leader Sunil Dahiya, who is a member of this coordination committee, had circulated messages widely on 27 March, asking lawyers not to join the BCI’s call for strike. Dahiya was not reachable for comment at the time of going to press.

Dahiya and the coordination committee were against the BCI’s own proposed amendments to the Advocates Act 1961, which heavily fine lawyers for professional misconduct and impose a complete ban on lawyer strikes.

Mishra slams dissent from SCBA

The SCBA, which neither supports the BCI’s proposed amendments – because they were allegedly submitted without the BCI having consulted other bar bodies about them – neither supports the law commission’s proposed amendments, nor opposed the BCI’s call for abstaining from work on Friday but called on members to wear white arm bands to work instead, as a mark of peaceful protest against the amendments and solidarity with striking lawyres.

Mishra condemned the SCBA on Friday, in a separate Facebook post, for having “never found the SCBA giving a call for the cause of lawyers”. Mishra went on to make the allegation that the SCBA is deliberately frustrating the cause of the striking lawyers as it is taking sides with the law commission which has given it a special status. He wrote:

How Law Commission has treated the SCBA on a different footing n has given a special status to it.

Therefore one thing appears to be genuine. It now becomes the duty of the beneficiary 1or 2 office bearers of SCBA to indirectly frustrate the present agitation of lawyers against the recommendations of Law Commission. N by making all sorts of baseless comments these handful of persons are trying to divide the lawyers,to divert your attentions n to weaken the unity of lawyers.

But the young n seasoned friends of our Bar are prudent enough to understand every thing.

This post had over 330 Likes, 63 comments a majority of which were in Mishra’s support and against the SCBA, and was shared 45 times at the time of going to press.

Mishra had also presided over a two-day nationwide lawyer strike in 2012, when he first came to power as BCI chairman, after the previous government tried to curtail the BCI’s power to accredit law schools.

The total number of law schools in India, since then, has only risen.

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