INDIA: Bar Councils, lawyers and Indias destiny

A legal professional is not above the law. A solicitor in Hong Kong was sentenced to imprisonment recently. It was alleged that the solicitor’s client who had lodged a complaint about a stockbroker had been persuaded by the solicitor to withdraw the charges as the solicitor was allegedly involved with the stockbroker.

A rather similar incident occurred in India. A lawyer from the State of Kerala was arrested for alleged involvement in facilitating the escape of a prisoner in custody who was awaiting trial.

However, with the intervention of the chairperson of the Bar Council, who met with   the Chief Justice of the High Court, the lawyer was later released on bail. Meanwhile, there were loud protests from the legal profession against the alleged injustice administered to their colleague.

The justice system in Hong Kong is considered to be the best in the world.   Any breach of professional ethics is dealt with seriously. One can be easily struck off the rolls and it is almost impossible to get oneself reinstated. In contrast, the justice system in India is considered to be among the worst in the world.

In India, a breach of professional ethics is not taken as seriously.   Offences committed by them  range from  tampering of court records, acting as go-betweens for the police, prosecutors and judges in collecting bribes, touting at police stations especially by the fledglings, to running their own business like pawn brokering or managing big companies.

Yet they all retain their membership with the Bar Council.

The State Bar Councils, the statutory bodies that decides upon disciplinary actions against lawyers in the state, is often referred to as clubs for the influential’ where decisions are made on the basis of money, political clout and even caste and religious sentiments.

Legal professionals are an indispensable part of the justice system in any country. They have a role to play in the society not just as a body of professionals, but also as instruments of social engineering.  The quality of the justice system is manifested by the integrity of its lawyers. Judges and prosecutors are selected from among the lawyers. Why do some of them fail to be satisfactory? Is any effort being made to address these issues?

India, once, could boast of having produced some of the best legal professionals in the region. Its judiciary was looked upon as fairly advanced compared to its neighbours. But today the system lacks credibility. They appear to be more institutions of persecution than a court administering justice.  People have no faith in the court and in their lawyers.  This has led to an increase in disputes being settled by violent and illegal means and the situation is exploited by the criminal elements in society who revel in lawlessness.

The State and the Central Bar Council of India is also responsible for letting the justice system to deteriorate to this level. They must redefine their role according to the statute and refrain from being a protection agency for its members and turning a blind eye to the blatant abuse of privileges by its members.

Admission to the rolls, recognition of law schools, re-implementation of a minimum training period for new graduates, screening test before admission to the bar in addition to the university degree, etc. must all go through changes and stringent tests. These are standard requirements in most jurisdictions where the ordinary people trust their lawyers and courts.

These measures will improve the quality of the legal profession and would salvage it from the reputation it is now fast gaining, which is that those who are good at nothing else could give it a shot.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-089-2007
Countries : India,
Issues : Administration of justice, Judicial system,