Advocates Protection Act Must Be Enacted At The Earliest
While striking entirely the right chord as the lawyers anticipated also, we saw how just recently it was none other than the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) itself which has condemned most strongly and also most unequivocally while expressing its utmost dismay at the recent most brutal, cowardly and ghastly attack on late Advocate Mr Virender Kumar Narwal aged 53 years who was practicing in New Delhi and who was shot dead from close range in South West Delhi’s Dwarka by two bike-borne assailants, that led to his most unfortunate killing in the most horrifying manner. It is somewhat consoling and refreshing to see that to ensure the safety, security and vital interests of lawyers which stands paramount as it is the lawyers who are the legs and tyres of the judicial system without which it cannot ever function smoothly under any circumstances, we see most laudably that the Supreme Court Bar Association has resolved to ensure that all efforts are made without fail to secure the safety of life and protection of vital interests of the lawyers. It is also good to see that in the pursuance in this direction to ensure the safety and security of the life of the lawyers and so also their vital interests, the Supreme Court Bar Association’s Executive Committee also resolved most commendably that the pending Advocates Protection Bill, 2021, be enacted at the earliest as it contains various such provisions which would be of immense usage to the lawyers which is certainly the crying need of the hour also!
For the exclusive benefit of esteemed readers, it must be certainly mentioned here that in its most commendable resolution dated April 4, 2023 which was signed by the Supreme Court Bar Association Secretary – Rahul Kaushik, the Supreme Court Bar Association while condemning the recent most dastardly killing of an advocate as mentioned above has said most unambiguously that the investigation into the said attack should be conducted in an expedited and fair manner by the Investigating Authority, and if the need so arises an SIT (Special Investigation Team) should be constituted to handle the case. It must be definitely mentioned here that in the fitness of things we see that the Supreme Court Bar Association in its resolution says most unequivocally that, “Lawyers have been an integral part of the society, and such an attack on Lawyers will completely shatter the confidence of the public at large if the people who are meant to protect the rule of law are attacked in such manners, and the culprits are not caught expeditiously. Advocates are otherwise also vulnerable sections of the society having no social security.” There can be no denying it and so the Advocates Protection Act must be enacted at the earliest as it brooks no more delay anymore!
While adding more to it, the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association has also resolved that the Advocates Protection Bill, 2021 which is pending Parliamentary enactment for almost two years, be passed at the earliest, which will ensure the safety and security of the lawyers while performing their professional obligations fearlessly. The earlier this is done, the better it shall be in the paramount interest of the lawyers who form an inseparable and most vital organ of the judiciary which cannot be denied by even the worst critics! The resolution of the Supreme Court Bar Association also minced just no words to point out explicitly, elegantly, eloquently and effectively that, “By virtue of bringing in of such an Act, certain provisions will come in force for taking care of the interests of the Advocates, be it with providing of Police Protection in certain cases, forming of a Redressal Committee for Advocates at each levels of Judiciary, protection of Advocates from illegal Arrests and Malicious Prosecutions, waiving of bail bonds for Advocates, providing extended protection in cases of privileged communications with clients, providing insurances and financial aids and loans to the Advocates, etc.”
It also certainly merits mentioning that the Supreme Court Bar Association has also fervently expressed the hope that its legitimate demands shall definitely be considered on priority. Just recently, we also saw how the State Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana sent two drafts of the Punjab Advocates (Protection) Bill 2023 and Haryana Advocates (Protection) Bill 2023 to both the States of Punjab and Haryana demanding the enactment of the same at the earliest. The Bar Council of both the States have warned of initiating peaceful protest by participating in a state-wide agitation if adequate steps are not taken for the same. It is worth noting that the incumbent Chairman of Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Council – Mr Suvir Sidhu said that the council would send the draft legislation to the governments through the proper channel. He minced just no words to state in simple, straightforward and suave language that, “In the coming days, if adequate steps are not taken and if need be, all advocates from Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh will be compelled to gather at a mass congregation or maha panchayat and initiate a peaceful protest (without suspending any judicial work) by participating in a statewide agitation in this regard.” Sidhu said that attacks against advocates and cases of false implication against legal professionals had increased manifold. So he also hastened to add further that, “Now more than ever, it has become imperative to penalize such acts and protect advocates who discharge their duties by enacting effective legislation making such offences cognizable in the territories of the States of Punjab and Haryana.” It cannot be glossed over that under Section 6 of the Advocates Act, 1961, the Council has been assigned to protect and safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of all advocates on its roll.
It must also be noted that the State Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana also said in its press note that, “The year 2023 alone, as reported so far, has sadly witnessed two broad-daylight murders of Adv Umesh Pal in Uttar Pradesh and the recent of Adv Virender Narwal in Delhi. The trend is clear : Lawyers are under attack because of their work, and they need better legal protections to sustain the viability of justice delivery systems.” It also further mentions that as per the last 2022 UN Report, in the decade from 2010 to 2020, more than 2,500 lawyers were killed, detained or kidnapped around the world and since 2010, every year, the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer has been observed worldwide with the purpose to create awareness about the threat to the safety of lawyers.
Most significantly, we must note that the drafts of the Punjab Advocates (Protection) Bill 2023 and Haryana Advocates (Protection) Bill 2023 consists of the following important provisions:-
1. Section 3 : Punishment in case of committing or abetting the commission of an act of violence against an advocate i.e., 6 months imprisonment which may extend to 5 years, and with a fine up to Rs. 1 lakh.
2. Section 4 : Compensation by the person convicted for causing any act of violence against any advocate.
3. Section 5 : An offence punishable under Section 3 shall be cognizable and non-bailable.
4. Section 6 : Compounding of offences.
5. Section 7 : Police protection to an advocate under the threat of being a victim of an act of violence.
6. Section 8 : An advocate shall be deemed to be an office of the institution.
7. Section 9 : Protection of action in due conduct of duties by advocates.
As we see, the State Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana has requested the States to consider their representation for the enactment of the Advocates (Protection) Act, 2023 at the earliest. To recapitulate, it was earlier in March 2023 that Rajasthan became the first State in India to pass a law specifically meant for the protection of the advocates which has to be definitely lauded in no uncertain terms! It must also be noted that the Rajasthan State Legislature had passed the Rajasthan Advocates Protection Bill, 2023 after it was tabled in the Assembly by voice vote.
It may be recalled that it was on March 21, 2023 that Rajasthan’s Law and Legal Affairs Minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal said that the State Assembly has passed the Rajasthan Advocates Protection Bill, 2023 in amended form to prevent violence against advocates. It must be also mentioned here that for the welfare of the advocates, every year Rs 5 crore is given by the State Government to the Bar Council. It has also been stipulated that if a criminal damages the property of an advocate, a provision has been made to recover the amount of compensation fixed by the court and give it to the aggrieved advocate. It was also clarified that the speedy recovery of this amount of compensation will be done on the lines of arrears of land revenue.
In a nutshell, it is high time and Advocates Protection Act must be enacted at the earliest. It must be implemented in all states of India and no state should be left out of it on one pretext or the other! The stellar role of the advocates which they perform in one form or the other cannot be glossed over and it is none other than the advocates themselves who are most essential for the smooth, effective and proper functioning of judiciary and to protect their life and vital interests, it becomes all the more imperative to most promptly implement the Advocate Protection Act at the earliest as it brooks no more delay any longer now! No denying!