Regulation of Disciplinary Control Over Lawyers

The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Mahipal Singh Rana v. State of UP, AIR 2016 SC 3302, directed the Law Commission of India to revisit the provisions relating to regulation of disciplinary control over lawyers under the Advocates Act and to recommend appropriate amendments so as to make the Act more comprehensive thereby facilitating Parliament to enact a law that would effectively empower the authorities for such effective regulation.

In view of the above, the Law Commission of India has submitted its Report No.266 titled The Advocates Act, 1961 (Regulation of Legal Profession), to the Central Government for its consideration, on 23.03.2017.

The Law Commission has also placed before the Government The Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Some of the features of the Bill include:

Definition of Advocate

The definition has been expanded to include a lawyer working in a law firm and a foreign lawyer.

“advocate” means an advocate entered in any roll under the provisions of this Act and includes an advocate carrying on practice in law with a law firm, by whatever name called, and a foreign lawyer registered under any law in a country outside India and recognised by the Bar Council of India.

Definition of Law Firm 

For the first time “law firm” has been defined.:

‘Law Firm’ means a firm, formed and registered under the Indian Partnership Act, 1932; or under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008; or a private or public limited company incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013 comprising of an advocate or advocates for carrying on practice in law and includes law firms formed and registered under any other law outside India.

Register of Law Firms

There shall also be a register of law firms that will be maintained by The Bar Council of India (in case of foreign firms) and by the State Bar Council (in case of Indian firms)

Definition of Misconduct

The Bill has also proposed a definition of Misconduct, which was missing in the Advocates Act.

‘misconduct’ includes-an act of an advocate whose conduct is found to be in breach of or non- observance of the standard of professional conduct or etiquette required to be observed by the advocate; or forbidden act; oran unlawful behaviour;or disgraceful and dishonourable conduct; or neglect; or not working diligently and criminal breach of trust;or any of his conduct incurring disqualification under section 24A

State Bar Councils and Bar Council of India

Constitution of State Bar Councils has been amended. The roles and functions of Bar Councils have been expanded. BCI’s role has been expanded.

Disciplinary Committees

The entire section on Disciplinary Committee has been replaced.

A Bar Council shall constitute one or more disciplinary committees, each of which shall consist of five persons of whom — (i)  two persons shall be elected by the Council from amongst its members;     (ii)  two persons shall be from amongst eminent persons from fields other than law to be co-opted by the Council; and (iii)  the fifth member shall be a person nominated by the High Court.

Special Public Grievance Redressal Committee of BCI

The Bill has proposed a Special Public Grievance Redressal Committee of BCI, which shall inquire into any allegation or complaint of corrupt practices or misconduct against any office bearer or member of the Bar Council of India in discharge of his duties as a member of the Council, which is referred to it by the Council.

Pre-enrolment training

The Law Commission has also proposed to bring back the apprenticeship rule, under which litigating lawyers will have to undergo pre-enrolment training for one year.

Continuing Legal Education

The Bill also tasks the BCI with providing Continuing Legal Education for practising lawyers.

Entrance Exam

After the proposed amendments, Section 7 of the Act, which enumerates the BCI’s functions includes,

“…to provide for Entrance Test for admission in the Institutions imparting legal education in the country and to provide for measures for improvement of legal education and to make provision for on-line teachings for all the law students of the country either directly or through some charitable Institution;”

Ban on Boycotts

It seems that fears of lawyers’ organisations around the country have come true, as the Law Commission has indeed called for an end to strikes. A new Section 35 states,

“No association of advocates or any member of the association or any advocate, either individually or collectively, shall, give a call for boycott or abstinence from courts’ work or boycott or abstain from courts’ work or cause obstruction in any form in court’s functioning or in court premises”.