CHENNAI: Defying an appeal by the Chief Justice, several hundred lawyers marched in a rally on Monday protesting the recent amendment to the Advocates’ Act empowering courts to debar advocates from law practice. The advocates said the amendment is not only draconian in nature, but also hangs like the sword of Damocles above lawyers’ heads.
Madras High Court Advocates’ Association president RC Paul Kanakaraj told Express, “Rule 14-D, empowering the High Court or the Principal District Court concerned to pass interim orders prohibiting advocates from appearing, is intended to act as the sword of Damocles. And it should be totally removed.”
More than 500 lawyers took part in the rally that went from the High Court premises to Chepauk where the bar leaders were addressing a public meeting.
“These laws are draconian and vague. What is the exact meaning of browbeating or how can a judge just determine what is offensive and what is not? We cannot be stifled this way, we need to continue to protest and stand up for our rights,” senior Bar member N G R Prasad said.
While the Chief Justice has said that Bar associations were consulted when passing the amendment, the advocates say they did not have any inkling that such an amendment will be passed.
“These amendments were made during the vacation and has come as a shock to all of us. We did not have the slightest idea about these amendments. It affects an individual ability to express,” said advocate C Rajeshwaran.
The lawyers said the recent amendments give immunity to judges from corrupt practices.
When members of the bar perceive a particular judge or judicial officer to be indulging in corrupt practices, he or she has a right and is also duty-bound to prefer a complaint to a superior court or authority. In most of the cases, concrete evidence may not surface immediately to prove the corruption charges.
It is only to ascertain the veracity of the complaints, the High Court has got a separate wing – Vigilance Cell, headed by a Registrar.
“The new amendment, however, would grant judges immunity from corrupt practices and even genuine complaints could be treated as unfounded and result in the complainant advocate being penalised,” Kanakaraj said.
He said even though the Supreme Court in 2009 had directed all high courts to enact rules under the Advocates’ Act, none of the other high courts have brought in such stringent rules.
These laws are draconian and vague. What is the exact meaning of browbeating or how can a judge just determine what is offensive and what is not? We cannot be stifled this way
N G R Prasad, senior Bar member