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Take our Defend the Lawyers Challenge: Can you rebut what Law Com chairman BS Chauhan says about the noble profession?

Law Com chief Chauhan seems to know lawyers: But is he harsh or fair?
Law Com chief Chauhan seems to know lawyers: But is he harsh or fair?

Lawyer strikes are fuelled by lawyers who hardly have court work and also by bar councils who guard their vote bank and disregard the interests of justice, as even elite law schools have failed in their mission, said Law Commission (LC) chairman and former Supreme Court judge Justice BS Chauhan in an interview with Outlook magazine, demonstrating a pretty decent understanding of the legal profession and some of the problems that beset it.

While judges are not always the best at looking across and understanding the other side of the bench, we challenge our readers to find counter-arguments against the highlighted sections of Chauhan’s statements below.

Because we had a hard time disagreeing with nearly everything he said...

Chauhan told Outlook:

When there are strikes or the court is shut, those lawyers with work do not sit around in dharna, but go home to prepare for other cases. It is those without work who agitate.

It is the fundamental right of the litigant to get justice and the lawyer who goes on strike is violating this fundamental right of his clients.

When the Supreme Court has held this in multiple orders and lawyers don’t respect apex court orders, why should they continue as lawyers? There may be grievances against judges or judicial officers, but these have to be solved through the proper channel, which lawyers are aware of.

In contrast, the Bar Council of India (BCI) in its meeting this weekend, headed by chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, has demanded Chauhan’s immediate resignation from the LC chair.

Chauhan’s views in brief

Fake lawyers: So-called ‘fake lawyers’, as the BCI’s verification drive is supposed to unmask according to the BCI, can’t be more than 5-10 percent, unlike the BCI’s claim of 35-40 per cent, says Chauhan:

They have probably been unable to verify all the enrolments. I have also forgotten where my certificate and degrees of law are and there will be many other people like that.

Legal education: Elite law schools can’t claim credit for producing good lawyers, and most litigation lawyers are litigation lawyers due to lack of choice, as they come from one of the mushrooming law schools where the law “degree is genuine” but “education is fake”.

If you select the best students, they will excel anywhere. Such institutions can’t claim credit for producing good lawyers.

These are also very expensive and ordinary people can’t afford to send their children there. Very few of these law graduates come to the courts, most join corporations or law firms engaged in corporate law practice.

Those coming to the courts are from the mushrooming law schools, with half-baked legal education.

Disciplining lawyers: State bar councils do not discipline lawyers either on their own, or through cooperation with the court, because those lawyers constitute the bar councils’ vote bank:

Once, when I was a judge in the All­­a­­habad High Court, lawyers in the Allahabad district court created serious problems.

The district judge sent me a report, inc­riminating 20 lawyers and I constituted a constitutional bench.

I also called the State Bar Council and asked them for their suggestions, but its functionaries were not willing to take any action. So I passed an order barring them from entry into the court premises.

Bar councils: Are full of nepotism and should be cured through a limit on consecutive terms for its members, in line with suggestions of the BCI-constituted committee led by former Supreme Court judge Shivraj Patil.

Non-lawyer members on the bar council are not a travesty of justice, according to suggestions received from the legal universe, said Chauhan:

Once a lawyer is elected to the bar council, he continues to contest elections thr­oughout his life. Plus, when senior family members are elevated to judgeship or retire, their children enter the council. It has become political...

In the bar councils, they can introduce some perce­ntage and let the bar councils give their lists to the state high courts which can select from that list. These laymen members should also be on the disciplinary committee. These are not our suggestions but recommendations that have come in from various quarters.

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