Bar Association of India criticizes new BCI rules prohibiting criticism of itself, judges; says fearless Bar imperative in democracy

THE Bar Association of India (BAI), a voluntary organisation of lawyers, has passed a resolution against the Bar Council of India’s(BCI) rules that seek to prohibit lawyers from criticizing its decisions and those of judges.

In its resolution, the BAI has said that a fearless and independent Bar is imperative in a democracy to not only uphold the rights of the citizenry but also to provide an effective evaluation of the country’s institutions.

The meeting was presided over by advocate Prashant Kumar who is the President of the BAI. Senior advocates Shyam Divan, Jaideep Gupta, Mohan V Katarki, Amarjit Singh Chandhiok, Janak D. Dwarkadas, PS Narasimha and C.S. Vaidyanathan among others are part of the Bar Association.

Supreme Court lawyer  Dr. Anindita Pujari is Hony. General Secretary to the BAI.

“Members of the legal community must be able to work and express themselves in an atmosphere free of fear of reprisal for their work, or for participation in public life, in accordance with the standards laid out in our Constitution, in international human rights law, as well as international standards on role of lawyers”, the BAI says.

It adds that the rules seek to grant complete immunity to the orders/ resolutions of the Bar Council of India and the State Bat councils, thereby placing these institutions above the law and violative of the Constitutional guarantees.

The Bar Association has also expressed its concern that the new rules aims at attemot to usurp the power of contempt of court by the Bar Council of India by having a parallel process of enquiry on issues of allegation against members of the judiciary which is uncalled for.

It also flagged the procedural lapses in notifying the new Rules. Referring to proviso to Section 49, the BAI said such rules would have needed approval of the CJI. However, the BCI gave a go by in the present case.

It has urged the Bar Council of India to restore the independence and dignity of the legal profession and withdraw the amendments to the Rules forthwith since merely keeping it in abeyance or placing the same before the Review Committee would not serve any purpose.

Earlier, the BCI informed the Kerala High Court that its new rules had not come into effect and the same were awaiting approval of the CJI. The submission was made by BCI’s lawyer during a hearing challenging the Rules. Later BCI issued a press statement that it had decided to keep the new rules in abeyance till a review committee constituted by it had examined them.