Written by: Tanvi Mishra (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
Recently, certain senior lawyers used social media platforms and television debates as a means to criticize the judges and the Bar Council of India. In response to this, the BCI made several amendments in its rules which were notified in the gazette on 25 th June 2021.
According to the Bar Council, if any lawyer makes a statement which is defamatory, malicious or with an intent to provoke public against any court, the State Bar Council of India or the Bar council of India, then this can be a ground to suspend the lawyer or to cancel his license for practicing law further.
With respect to this, two provisions were inserted in the rules of the Bar Council of India. They are as follows:
1. Insertion of Section V in part VI, Chapter II of the BCI rules. According to this amendment, any advocate should act like a gentlemen/gentle lady and shall not do any unlawful act. He/she shall not make any statement in print, in any electronic or social media, which is not decent and is derogatory, defamatory, malicious, motivated or mischievous against any court, any member of judiciary, the State Bar Council of India or the Bar Council of India.
If any such act is committed then it would amount to misconduct and the advocate would be liable under section 35 and section 36 of the Advocates’ Act, 1961. Section 35 prescribes punishment for any misconduct and the punishment can amount to disqualification or suspension from practicing law.
2. The second provision which is inserted by the BCI is section VA. According to this, any member of the State Bar Council of India or the Bar Council of India shall not publish or make any statement against the BCI or SBCI which is abusive, derogatory or defamatory through print, electronic or any social media. If any such statement is published in public domain then there is a punishment amounting to suspension or disqualification.
However, it has also been clarified in section VA that any bona fide criticism which is healthy and done in good faith cannot be treated as “misconduct” and hence it is not punishable under the rules of the Bar Council of India. But if the advocates violate the rules then they can be disqualified from contesting in bar association or council elections for a period of time. The time period completely depends upon the gravity of misconduct by the lawyer or advocate.
There were a number of controversies where the senior lawyers were against each other in different issues. Moreover, now a days, the criticism of judiciary and the conduct of judges has increased to a larger extent and so the Bar Council of India came up with these amendments to control the situation. Some might say that the amendments are against the freedom of Right to speech and expression under article 19 of the Indian Constitution but there is a very thin line between the two which we need to understand.
This amendment is certainly like sedition law meant solely for judiciary and the BCI.