THE Bar Council of India (BCI) Wednesday informed the Kerala High Court that its new Rules barring lawyers from criticizing its decisions and those of the State Bar Councils have not come into force.
“The Rules await the approval of the CJI”, the advocate for BCI said.
The submission was made by the advocate of BCI during the hearing challenging the new BCI Rules as being violative of freedom of speech and expression.
Justice PB Suresh Kumar accordingly recorded the submission of the BCI.
As per the Advocates Act, any rule with regard to the standard of professional conduct and etiquette to be observed by advocates requires the approval of the Chief Justice of India.
On June 26, the BCI notified new rules prohibiting advocates from making any statement against any court, judge, any member of the judiciary, state bar Council or the Bar Council of India in the print, electronic or on social media, which is indecent or derogatory, defamatory or motivated, malicious or mischievous. However, as per proviso to Section 49 of the Advocates Act, the approval of the Chief Justice of India was required to give effect to the Rules.
The amended rules state-
i) No Member of any State Bar Council or of Bar Council of India shall be permitted to publish anything or to make any Statement or Press-Release in Print, Electronic or Social Media against any Resolution or Order of concerned State Bar Council or Bar Council of India or to make/use any derogatory or abusive language/comment/s/ word/s against the Bar Council or its office-bearers or members.
(ii) The Decision of any State Bar Council or Bar Council of India shall not be criticized or attacked by any Member/s of Bar Council in public domain.
(iii) No Advocate or any Member of any State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India shall undermine the dignity or authority of the State Bar Council or Bar Council of India.
A violation of the rule will invite misconduct proceedings against the errant advocate. The rules, however, state that healthy and bona-fide criticism made in good faith, will not be treated as “misconduct”.