The Bar Council of India has come out with an undated press release responding to certain comments made by Justice Jasti Chelameswar in an interview with senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai on the India Today news channel. While, individual advocates are entitled to all manner of speech, the regulators constituted by statute should not be engaging in political activities. But it appears that the Bar Council of India has found this particular occasion to speak for the “99.9%” of India’s legal community.
BCI Press Release
The Bar Council of India is currently headed by Manan Kumar Mishra — a gentleman who has gone on record saying that Prime Minister is a reincarnation of Mohandas Gandhi. As BCI chairman, he also has openly allied himself with a political party, joining the BJP in the year 2014, thereby giving a political colour to the actions of what is supposed to be a statutory and independent regulatory body entrusted with the role of setting professional standards.
Chairman of Bar Council of India,Manan Kumar Mishra joins BJP pic.twitter.com/4oYBl6gvgY
— ANI (@ANI) January 25, 2014
It is now quite clear that theBar Council of India has become nothing more than an apparatus of the present government’s political machinery and a vehicle to protect the current Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, from legitimate critique and censure. Lawyers as officers of the court have a solemn duty to ensure that the independence of the judiciary is guarded. However, moves such as the statement by the Bar Council of India accusing the former Supreme Court justice of having “biased political motives” is not one becoming of a magistrate’s court bar association let alone the national regulator.
The Bar Council of India’s job is to regulate the practice of law. It has no role in representing the views of advocates in India, nor is it their mouthpiece. There is a catena of bar associations across India to voice the views of advocates and these bar associations do so frequently.
The Bar Council of India’s statement is not representative of the views of advocates in the country. Under MK Misra’s tenure, the Bar Council of India has become highly politicised and partisan in its affiliation and no longer can maintain a legitimate sense of independence in the eyes of the Bar. One need only to remember the Bar Council of India initiating an inquiry against Dushyant Dave, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court, for moving the petition on the Judge Loya Case.
These actions do not reflect well on an independent regulator. A regulator cannot claim that a lawyer has committed misconduct for moving a petition, one that was maintainable. This further reflects on the highly politicised nature of the Bar Council.
The Bar Council under Misra’s leadership has become the Attorney General to the Chief Justice of India, shielding the person (not the office) from any allegation or critique. Even legitimate critique by other members of the legal fraternity is now to be challenged by an independent regulator, whose sole job is to regulate that fraternity, not represent them.
We also need to note the the selective voice of the Bar Council. The Bar Council of India under the tenure of the present chairman refused to take suo moto action against the High Court Bar Association in Jammu, the Kathua District Bar Association, among others, for obstructing the course of justice. This April members of the Association went on strike and physically attempted to prevent the police from filing a charge-sheet in the Kathua incident.
Further, there is an increasing rise in lawlessness among advocates in the country, especially in our lower and senior courts. Under MK Misra’s tenure, this problem has only worsened.
The BCI’s press release is clearly partisan. The allegations against the former Supreme Court judge are factually untenable. The former judge did not use the word “bench fixing”, and, in fact, openly rejected the use of the term. The former judge in the press conference and in his statements to the media, is attempting to inform the public about the most open secret in India’s judicial system. The fact that the judiciary is supreme but it is not infallible. There are issues in the judiciary that need to be remedied. A statutory body that represents the officers of the court would do better to engage with Justice Chelameswar rather than malign him by this press release.
Misra needs to resign from his post for causing the Council to issue this ignoble press release. State Bar Councils need to condemn the BCI’s actions in this matter, as must the assorted Bar Associations. While the independence of India’s judiciary has been on the line for a while now, Misra’s actions have now put the independence of the Bar into question. No good can come from this. Not for the Bar, not for the Judiciary, and definitely not for the country.