By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, October 26, 2017: The Bar Council of India had once declared that uncountable lawyers in India on public record were fake and never had any practice at courts. Odisha Bar council had some time ago made it clear that out of the 45,000 registered lawyers, only 25,000 were real lawyers seriously at work.

What hurts people of Odisha most is the grave fact that lawyers create trouble for people at the drop of a hat, despite strict rules of ‘no strike of work’ laid down severally by the Bar Council of India. Even the Supreme Court has been very critical of ‘lawyers’ strike’ as it affects lives of people very adversely. People waiting anxiously for life or property saving justice, some under extremely difficult and emergency situations, feel cheated and neglected due to headless, populist strikes by lawyers.

Observing that  lawyers should not go on strike or give calls to boycott courts, the Supreme Court had given enough time to various bar bodies including the Bar Council of India to solve the problem caused by frequent boycotts once for all. But lawyers of Odisha and elsewhere have paid hardly any heed to the BCI or the apex court rulings. A bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Arun Mishra had once said, “Our view is that the lawyers should not go on strike. It’s like Brahmastra (weapon created by Brahma). One should use it in a difficult situation, but now a days this is being used frequently.

Lawyers, who need to be humane and compassionate like sane doctors, have turned greedy and callous to people’s woes. Money is the only driving force for them today. The exorbitant fees most little known lawyers charge today are beyond the reach or capacity of the ordinary middle class.

Most importantly, what is least known to them is the fact that ‘striking work’ is not to be tolerated, let alone causing any kind of disruption to public life including forcing people to stay indoors, stopping public services including transport, state public agencies engaged in delivery of critical goods and relief and public distribution outfits.

The state DGP had sternly warned against train service disruption. But news is that the lawyers stopped some trains for several hours. Puri being a famous tourism destination,  witnessed hundreds of commuters and tourists stranded at lodging facilities and rail and bus stations with old crying babies in arms and groaning old people in company. Hundreds of men, women and teenage children were seen pulling luggage on time wheels on rough roads on way to the rail station and bus terminal where not much survival facilities are available.

The reason for the strike was the unfortunate murder of a lawyer by unknown assailants not traced yet. The police headed by a perfectly organised Superintendent are doing its best to nab the killers. But it’s rumoured that the deceased lawyer has been killed for some private dispute with known persons who are kept shielded even today. The police are not clueless, but not sure which lead to take immediately, as usual in a misleading situation like the one in Puri. The incumbent superintendent of police is a thoroughly methodical operator who is not likely to commit silly mistakes to lose track. As the police are laying its net across, the killers are likely to be nabbed within days.

But no one is sure what should be happening to the insane lawyers behaving lawlessly by defying the Supreme Court and Bar Council rulings and guidelines. They of course have a right to agitate to express protest against any man-made problems or issues but that has to remain limited to the court domains and not one inch beyond. They cannot even stop court work or disrupt legal activities by boycotting ‘litigant services’ in any manner.

The Puri strike by lawyers was most unfortunately supported by the state bar council which shows basic spirit of law is not known to the body at all. Lawyers at Puri even burnt tyres and intimidated people who wanted to leave town for emergency help many kinds. Everyone who understands law of the land is waiting eagerly to see how the lawless strikers are taken to task by authorities to send signals of stringent action to potential trouble makers.

To curb increasing lawlessness among advocates and to weed out fake ones, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has suggested stringent measures, including debarring advocates from practising for participating in strikes or abstaining from court work. Further, in its detailed suggestions to the Law Commission, which is drafting amendments to the Advocates Act on a reference made to it by the Supreme Court, the regulatory body said the law should be amended to statutorily prohibit lawyers from boycotting or abstaining from work in courts.

The BCI had amply made it clear that no association of advocates or any member of the association, either individually or collectively, shall boycott or abstain from court work or cause obstruction in any form in court’s functioning during court’s working hours in court premises nor shall individually or collectively give a call for such boycott or abstinence from work during court hours.

There is a great deal of hue and cry these days about the poor being unable to get justice ever because skilled lawyers are so heartlessly and uncompromisingly expensive on their fees, no matter how good a case is and how helplessly poor a client.

There is now a story making rounds: ‘A lawyer represented his clients in a partition suit and the suit is pending in the district court for more than three years. After around three years, the same lawyer represents another fraudulent lady who is no way connected to the family on the very same property. The genealogy given in these two cases by the same lawyer differs.

After a year, again the very same lawyer represents a land grabbing mafia on the very same property. In the above three suits, a non-petitioner, but one of the genuine legal heirs to the property got seriously affected by the above three suits. So, when a fraudulent lady attempted to grab his property, he filed a police complaint and the lawyer threatened the police saying that the matter is pending in the civil court. If any action is taken by police, the matter would be reported to the Human Rights Commission. This lawyer did not even seem to be aware of his first case over the same property.

Agitated by the unethical behaviour of the lawyer, the affected person made a complaint in the Bar Council requesting the Council to take immediate action. The craftily greedy lawyer replied back saying that he had more than 28 years of practice as lawyer across three generations with experience in handling cases at the High Court and put forth his arguments thus:

The complainant has no locus standi as he is not a client to him. But even though not a client, the complainant was directly affected as one of the legal heirs to the property on which the lawyer represented three different clients. Between the first case and the second, there is a gap of three years (Remember, the case is still active and he is representing his first clients who are plaintiffs). He is not aware that the property is one and the same. He has simply believed his clients’ words and filed the suit. The moot question is ‘how can the lawyer act upon any client’s version as against the Rule 5 of the Bar council of India and how can he submit two different sets of genealogy without going through the original records?’

The Bar Council has taken the matter seriously and coming up with a verdict as per law.

The point driven home here is not to undermine the nobility of the legal professionals.  The worry expressed is that some lawyers are so law–ignorant and unethical that the world will faint to know because they can cause irreparable damage to mankind. Lawyers, like greedy and unethical doctors, can destroy individuals and families. The Puri lawyers strike was not in keeping with the rule of law. No one is sure if fitting penal action is going to be taken against the errant lawyers who have caused national damage.

People must know they have a right to agitate against the lawless agitators particularly those law practitioners who have no sense of law, but merrily cause disruption to public activities and bring life to a hurting halt by defying orders of the Supreme Court and rules of their own Bar Council of India.

Clients need to be extremely careful about lawyers they choose, as lawless advocates can vanish from the scene of action to go on strike without notice. There shall be no emergency help available as courts would be empty with helpless judges sitting idle.