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Dr Elbe Peter, MDS, LL.B, DCR.
Professional misconduct of lawyers in India
Advocacy is a noble profession and an advocate is the most accountable, privileged and erudite person of the society and his act are role model for the society, which are necessary to be regulated. Professional misconduct is the behaviour outside the bounds of what is considered acceptable or worthy of its membership by the governing body of a profession. Professional misconduct refers to disgraceful or dishonourable conduct not befitting an advocat. Chapter V of the Advocate Act, 1961, deals with the conduct of Advocates. It describes provisions relating to punishment for professional and other misconducts. Section 35(1) of the Advocate Act, 1961, says, where on receipt of a complaint or otherwise a State Bar Council has reason to believe that any advocate on its roll has been guilty of professional or other misconduct, it shall refer the case for disposal to it disciplinary committee. Generally legal profession is not a trade or business, it’s a gracious, noble, and decontaminated profession of the society. Members belonging to this profession should not encourage deceitfulness and corruption, but they have to strive to secure justice to their clients. The credibility and reputation of the profession depends upon the manner in which the members of the profession conduct themselves. It’s a symbol of healthy relationship between Bar and Bench.
The Advocates Act, 1961 as well Indian Bar Council are silent in providing exact definition for professional misconduct because of its wide scope, though under Advocates Act, 1961 to take disciplinary action punishments are prescribed when the credibility and reputation on the profession comes under a clout on account of acts of omission and commission by any member of the profession.
Meaning and Definition
Profession is a vocation requiring some significant body of knowledge that is applied with high degree of consistency in the service of some relevant segment of society, by Hodge and Johnson. Occupation especially one requiring advanced education and special training by A. S. Hornby. It is different from other types of jobs, in the sense that it requires skills and these skills will be improved with experience.
The attributes of a profession as laid down by Dalton E. McFarland are;
1) The existence of a body of specialized knowledge or techniques
2) Formalized method of acquiring training and experience
3) The establishment of representative organization with professionalism as its goal.
4) The formation of ethical codes for the guidance of conduct.
5) The charging of fees based on services but with due regards for the priority of service over the desire for monetary rewards.
A person who carries/undertakes the profession is called a professional. Depending on the profession a person undertakes, he/she is identified with a special name relevant to the profession.
Misconduct, according to Oxford dictionary means a wrongful, improper, or unlawful conduct motivated by premeditated act. It is a behavior not conforming to prevailing standards or laws, or dishonest or bad management, especially by persons entrusted or engaged to act on another's behalf. The expression professional misconduct in the simple sense means improper conduct. In law profession misconduct means an act done willfully with a wrong intention by the people engaged in the profession. It means any activity or behaviour of an advocate in violation of professional ethics for his selfish ends. If an act creates disrespect to his profession and makes him unworthy of being in the profession, it amounts to professional misconduct. In other word an act which disqualifies an advocate to continue in legal profession.
To understand the scope and implication of the term ‘misconduct’, the context of the role and responsibility of an advocate should be kept in mind. Misconduct is a sufficiently wide expression, and need not necessarily imply the involvement of moral turpitude. ‘Misconduct’ per se has been defined in the Black’s Law Dictionary to be “any transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, unlawful or improper behavior, willful in character, a dereliction of duty.” In a different context, the Supreme Court has opined that the word “misconduct” has no precise meaning, and its scope and ambit has to be construed with reference to the subject matter and context wherein the term occurs. In the context of misconduct of an advocate, any conduct that in any way renders an advocate unfit for the exercise of his profession, or is likely to hamper or embarrass the administration of justice may be considered to amount to misconduct, for which disciplinary action may be initiated.
Darling J, defined the expression professional misconduct in, In re A Solicitor ex parte the law society as, It is shown that the advoate in the pursuit of his profession has done some thing with regard to it which would be reasonably regarded as disgraceful or dishonourable by his professional brethren of good repute and competeny, then it is open to say that he is guilty of professional misconduct.
Misconduct is sufficiently comprehensive to include misfeasance as well as malfeasance and is applied to the professional people, it include unprofessional acts even though they are not inherently wrongful. The professional misconduct may consist the fact in any conduct, which tends to bring reproach on the legal profession or to alienate the favourable opinion which the public should entertain concerning it. In state of Punjab v Ram Singh the supreme Court held that the term misconduct may involve moral turpitude, it must be improper or wrong behaviour, unlawful behaviour, willful in character, a forbidden act, a transgression of established and definite rule of action or code of conduct, but not mere error of judgement, carelessness or negligence in performance of duty.
The Supreme Court has, in some of its decisions, elucidated on the concept of ‘misconduct’, and its application. In Sambhu Ram Yadav v. Hanuman Das Khatry, a complaint was filed by the appellant against an advocate to the Bar Council of Rajasthan, that while appearing in a suit as a counsel, he wrote a letter stating that the concerned judge, before whom the suit is pending accepts bribes, and asked for Rs. 10,000 to bribe and influence the judge to obtain a favourable order. The Disciplinary Committee, holding that the advocate was guilty if “misconduct”, stated that such an act made the advocate “totally unfit to be a lawyer.” The Supreme Court, upholding the finding of the Rajasthan Bar Council held that the legal profession is not a trade or business. Members belonging to the profession have a particular duty to uphold the integrity of the profession and to discourage corruption in order to ensure that justice is secured in a legal manner. The act of the advocate was misconduct of the highest degree as it not only obstructed the administration of justice, but eroded the reputation of the profession in the opinion of the public.
In another case, Noratanman Courasia v. M. R. Murali the Supreme Court explored the amplitude and extent of the words “professional misconduct” in Section 35 of the Advocates Act. The facts of the case involved an advocate (appearing as a litigant in the capacity of the respondent, and not an advocate in a rent control proceeding) assaulted and kicked the complainant and asked him to refrain from proceeding with the case. The main issue in this case was whether the act of the advocate amounted to misconduct, the action against which could be initiated in the Bar Council, even though he was not acting in the capacity of an advocate. It was upheld by the Supreme Court that a lawyer is obliged to observe the norms of behavior expected of him, which make him worthy of the confidence of the community in him as an officer of the Court. Therefore, inspite of the fact that he was not acting in his capacity as an advocate, his behavior was unfit for an advocate, and the Bar Council was justified in proceeding with the disciplinary proceedings against him.
It may be noted that in arriving at the decision in the case, the Supreme Court carried out an over-view of the jurisprudence of the courts in the area of misconduct of advocates. It reiterated that the term “misconduct” is incapable of a precise definition. Broadly speaking, it envisages any instance of breach of discipline. It means improper behavior, intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of standard of behavior. The term may also include wrongful intention, which is not a mere error of judgment. Therefore, “misconduct”, though incapable of a precise definition, acquires its connotation from the context, the delinquency in its performance and its effect on the discipline and the nature of duty.
In N.G. Dastane v. Shrikant S. Shind, where the advocate of one of the parties was asking for continuous adjournments to the immense inconvenience of the opposite party, it was held by the Supreme Court that seeking adjournments for postponing the examination of witnesses who were present without making other arrangements for examining such witnesses is a dereliction of the duty that an advocate owed to the Court, amounting to misconduct.
Ultimately, as it has been upheld and reiterated that “misconduct” would cover any activity or conduct which his professional brethren of good repute and competency would reasonably regard as disgraceful or dishonourable. It may be noted that the scope of “misconduct” is not restricted by technical interpretations of rules of conduct. This was proven conclusively in the case of Bar Council of Maharashtra v. M.V. Dahbolkar. The facts under consideration involved advocates positioning themselves at the entrance to the Magistrate’s courts and rushing towards potential litigants, often leading to an ugly scrimmage to snatch briefs and undercutting of fees. The Disciplinary Committee of the state Bar Council found such behavior to amount to professional misconduct, but on appeal to the Bar Council of India, it was the Bar Council of India absolved them of all charges of professional misconduct on the ground that the conduct did not contravene Rule 36 of the Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette as the rule required solicitation of work from a particular person with respect to a particular case, and this case did not meet all the necessary criteria, and such method of solicitation could not amount to misconduct. This approach of the Bar council of India was heavily reprimanded by the Supreme Court. It was held that restrictive interpretation of the relevant rule by splitting up the text does not imply that the conduct of the advocates was warranted or justified. The standard of conduct of advocates flows from the broad cannons of ethics and high tome of behavior. It was held that “professional ethics cannot be contained in a Bar Council rule nor in traditional cant in the books but in new canons of conscience which will command the member of the calling of justice to obey rules or morality and utility.” Misconduct of advocates should thus be understood in a context-specific, dynamic sense, which captures the role of the advocate in the society at large.
Provisions in Advocates act 1961
The advocates act 1961 is a comprehensive legislation that regulates the legal practice and legal education in India. It envisages for the establishment of Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils with various disciplinary committees to deal with misconduct of the advocates. It also provides for the provisions relating to the admission and enrolment of advocates and advocates right to practice. Chapter V containing sections 35 to 44 deals with the conduct of the advocates. It provides for punishment for advocates for professional and other misconduct and disciplinary powers of the Bar council of India. In order to attract the application of section 35 of the advocates act the misconduct need not be professional misconduct alone. The expression used in the section is Professional or other misconduct. So even conduct unconnected with the profession may account to a misconduct as for example, conviction for a crime, though the crime was not commited in the professional capacity. At the same time it is to be noted that a mere conviction is not sufficient to find an advocate guilty of misconduct, the court must look in to the nature of the act on which the conviction is based to decide whether the advocate is or is not an unfit person to be removed from or to be allowed to remain in the profession.
Misconduct is of infinite variety, the expression professional or other misconduct must be understood in their plain and natural meaning and there is no justification in restricting their natural meaning. The term misconduct usually implies an act done willfully with a wrong intention and as applied to professional people it includes unprofessional acts even though such acts are not inherently wrongful.
The Code of Conduct Prescribed For Advocate
Section 49 of the advocates act 1961 empowers the Bar Council of India to frame rules regulating standards of professional conduct. Accordingly various duties are prescribed for the advocates some of them are highlighted below.
No advertising or soliciting work, it is against an advocate’s code of ethics to solicit or advertise work and amounts to a misconduct on the part of the advocate. Both direct and indirect advertising is prohibited. An advocate may not advertise his services through circulars, advertisements, touts, personal communication or interviews not warranted by personal relations. Similarly, the following forms of indirect advertising are prohibited:
(i) by issuing circulars or election manifestos by a lawyer with his name, profession and address printed on the manifestos, thereby appealing to the members of the profession practising in the lower courts who are in a position to recommend clients to counsel practising in the HC.
(ii) canvassing for votes by touring in the province or sending out his clerk or agents to the various districts, which must necessarily mean directly approaching advocates practicing in subordinate courts. Further, the signboard or nameplate displayed by an advocate should be of reasonable size. It should not refer to details of an affiliated by the advocate i.e. that he is or has been president or member of a bar council or of any association, or he has been a Judge or an Advocate-General, or that he specializes in a particular kind of work, or that he is or was associated with any person or organization or with any particular cause or matter.
Not to demand fees for training; An advocate is restrained from demanding any fees for imparting training to enable any person to qualify for enrolment.
Not use name/services for unauthorized practice; An advocate may not allow his professional services or his name to be associated with, or be used for any unauthorized practice of law by any lay agency.
Not to enter appearance without consent of the advocate already engaged: an advocate is prohibited from entering appearance in a case where there is already another advocate engaged for a party except with the consent of such advocate. However if such consent is not produced, the advocate must state the reasons for not producing it, and may appear subsequently, only with the permission of the court.
Duty to opposite party:- While conducting a case, a lawyer has a duty to be fair not only to his client but also to the court, and to the opposite party. An advocate for a party must communicate or negotiate with the other parties regarding the subject matter of controversy, only through the opposite party’s advocate. If an advocate has made any legitimate promises to the opposite party, he should fulfill the same, even if the promise was not reduced to writing or enforceable under the rules of the court.
Duties of an advocate towards his client: The relationship between a lawyer and a client is highly fiduciary and it is the duty of an advocate fearlessly to uphold the interests of the client by fair and honourable means without regard to any unpleasant consequences to himself or any other person.
The above are only few important code of conduct to be observed by an advocate practicing in India. According to Justice Abbot Parry, there are seven important qualities that a lawyer should possess, he call these qualities as seven lamps of advocacy, they are; Honesty, Courage, Industry, Wit, eloquence, Judgement, and Fellowship. Apart from that the panchsheel of the bar are Honesty, Industry, Justice, Service and Philisophy and Panchsheel of the bench according to Sri ram Kishore Rande are, Impartiality, Independence, Integrity and Industry, Judicial activism and Prayer. Among the various duties of the advocates like, duties to client, court, public, colleagues and self, selected points can be picked up and arranged according to the due and relative importance and are called as ten commandments of advocates they are;
a) Duties to client
1) Protection of the interest of the client
2) Proper estimation of the value of legal advices and services
b) Duties to court
3) Honesty and respect
4) Preparation of the case
c) Duties to Public
6) Loyalty to law and justice
d) Duties to colleagues
e) Duties to self
9) Systematic study
10) Prudence and deligence
The rules laid down by the Bar Council of India forms the code of conduct for advocates and in broad sense any violation of such rules or code of conduct can be termed as professional misconduct. The scope of the term has been still widened by the Supreme Court in various decisions.
Instances of Misconduct
Legal Practioners act 1879 has not defined the word Misconduct. The word Unprofessional conduct is used in the act. Even the Advocates Act 1961 has not defined the term misconduct because of the wide scope and application of the term. Hence to understand the instances of misconduct we have to rely on decided cases. Some of the instances of Professional misconduct are as follows,
1) Dereliction of duty
2) Professional negligence
4) Changing sides
5) Contempt of court and improper behaviour before a magistrate
6) Furnishing false information
7) Giving improper advice
8) Misleading the clients in court
9) Non speaking the truth
10) Disowning allegiance to court
11) Moving application without informing that a similar application has been rejected by another authority
12) Suggesting to bribe the court officials
13) Forcing the procecution witness not to tell the truth.
Contempt of Court As Misconduct
In the recent case of B. M. Verma v. Uttrakhand Regulatory Commission court noted that, it was given the wide powers available with a Court exercising contempt jurisdiction. In the case of Court of Its Own Motion v. State dealing with the contempt proceedings involving two senior advocates, observed that ‘given the wide powers available with a Court exercising contempt jurisdiction, it cannot afford to be hypersensitive and therefore, a trivial misdemeanor would not warrant contempt action. Circumspection is all the more necessary because as observed by the SC in SC Bar Association v. Union of India the Court is in effect the jury, the judge and the hangman; while in M.R. Parashar H. L. Sehgal it was observed that the Court is also a prosecutor Anil Kumar Sarkar v. Hirak Ghosh, reiterates this.
In the most controversial and leading case of R.K. Ananad v. Registrar of Delhi High Court, On 30th May, 2007 a TV news channel NDTV carried a report relating to a sting operation. The report concerned itself with the role of a defence lawyer and the Special Public Prosecutor in an ongoing Sessions trial in what is commonly called the BMW case. On 31st May, 2007 a Division Bench of this Court, on its own motion, registered a writ Petition and issued a direction to the Registrar General to collect all materials that may be available in respect of the telecast and also directed NDTV to preserve the original material including the CD/video pertaining to the sting operation. The question for our consideration is whether Mr. R.K. Anand and Mr. I.U. Khan, Senior Advocates and Mr. Sri Bhagwan Sharma, Advocate have committed criminal contempt of Court or not. It was observed that prima facie their acts and conduct were intended to subvert the administration of justice in the pending BMW case and in particular to influence the outcome of the pending judicial proceedings. Accordingly, in exercise of powers conferred by Article 215 of the Constitution proceedings for contempt of Court (as defined in Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971) were initiated against Mr. Anand, Mr. Khan and Mr. Sri Bhagwan Sharma and they were asked to show cause why they should not be punished accordingly. Court said that Courts of law are structured in such a design as to evoke respect and reverence for the majesty of law and justice. The machinery for dispensation of justice according to law is operated by the court. Proceedings inside the courts are always expected to be held in a dignified and orderly manner. The very sight of an advocate, who was found guilty of contempt of court on the previous hour, standing in the court and arguing a case or cross-examining a witness on the same day, unaffected by the contemptuous behaviour he hurled at the court, would erode the dignity of the court and even corrode the majesty of it besides impairing the confidence of the public in the efficacy of the institution of the courts. This necessitates vesting of power with the HC to formulate rules for regulating the proceedings inside the court including the conduct of advocates during such proceedings. That power should not be confused with the right to practise law. Thus court held that there may be ways in which conduct and actions of an advocate may pose a real and imminent threat to the purity of court proceedings cardinal to any court’s functioning, apart from constituting a substantive offence and contempt of court and professional misconduct. In such a situation the court does not only have the right but also the obligation to protect itself. Hence, to that end it can bar the advocate from appearing before the courts for an appropriate period of time. In the present case since the contents of the sting recordings were admitted and there was no need for the proof of integrity and correctness of the electronic materials. Finally the Supreme Court upheld High Court’s verdict making Anand guilty on the same count. On the other hand, the Supreme Court let off I U Khan, who was found guilty by the High Court.
Attempt of Murder:
In the case of Hikmat Ali khan v. Ishwar prasad arya and ors, Ishwar Prasad Arya, respondent No. 1, was registered as an advocate with the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh and was practising at Badaun. An incident took place on May 18, 1971 during lunch interval at about 1.55 p.m., in which respondent No. 1 assaulted his opponent Radhey Shyam in the Court room of Munsif/Magistrate, Bisauli at Badaun with a knife. A pistol shot is also said to have been fired by him at the time of incident. After investigation he was prosecuted for offences under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 25 of the Arms Act. The 1st Temporary Civil and Sessions Judge, by his judgment dated July 3, 1972, convicted him of the said offence and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years for the offence under Section 307, I.P.C. and for a period of nine months for offence under Section 25 of the Arms Act.
On the basis of the said complaint disciplinary proceedings were initiated against respondent No. 1 by the Bar Council of U.P. he was found guilty of gross professional mis-conduct by taking the benefit himself of a forged and fabricated document which had been prepared at his behest. The Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of U.P. directed that respondent No. 1 be debarred from practising as an advocate for a period of two years from the date of the service of the order. Respondent No. 1 filed an appeal, the said appeal was allowed by the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of India by order dated June 8, 1984 and the order of the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of U.P. dated January 30, 1982 was set aside on the view that there was no material on the basis of which it could reasonably be held that respondent No. 1 had prepared the document which was subsequently found forged. Further the submission of Shri Markendaya was that having regard to the gravity of the misconduct of respondent No. 1 in assaulting his opponent in the Court room with a knife and his having been committed the offence under Section 307, I.P.C. and his being sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years in connection with the said incident, the punishment of removal of the name of respondent No. 1 from the roll of advocates should have been imposed on him and that the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of U. P. was in error in imposing the light punishment of debarring respondent No. 1 from practising as an advocate for a period of three years only and that this was a fit case in which the appeal filed by the appellant should have been allowed by the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of India. It was held that the acts of mis-conduct found established are serious in nature. Under Sub-section (3) of Section 35 of the Act the Disciplinary Committee of the State Bar Council is empowered to pass an order imposing punishment on an advocate found guilty of professional or other mis-conduct. Such punishment can be reprimand [Clause (b)], suspension from practice for a certain period [Clause (c)] and removal of the name of the advocate from the State roll of advocate [Clause (d)], depending on the gravity of the mis-conduct found established. The punishment of removal of the name from the roll of advocates is called for where the misconduct is such as to show that the advocate is unworthy of remaining in the profession. In this context, it may be pointed out that under Section 24(A) of the Act a person who is convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude is disqualified for being admitted as an advocate on the State roll of advocates. This means that the conduct involving conviction of an offence involving moral turpitude which would disqualify a person from being enrolled as an advocate has to be considered a serious misconduct when found to have been committed by a person who is enrolled as an advocate and it would call for the imposition of the punishment of removal of the name of the advocate from the roll of advocates. In the instant case respondent No. 1 has been convicted of the offence of attempting to commit murder punishable under Section 307, IPC. He had assaulted his opponent in the Court room with a knife. The gravity of the mis-conduct committed by him is such as to show that he is unworthy of remaining in the profession. The said mis-conduct, therefore, called for the imposition of the punishment of removal of the name of respondent No. 1 from the State roll of advocates and the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of U. P., in passing the punishment of debarring respondent No. 1 from practising for a period of three years, has failed to take note of gravity of the misconduct committed by respondent No. 1. Having regard to the facts of the case the proper punishment to be imposed on respondent No. 1 under Section 35 of the Act should have been to direct the removal of his name from the State roll of advocates. The appeal filed by the appellant, therefore, deserves to be allowed. Finally court held that the respondents name should be removed from the rolls.
Misbehaviour As Misconduct
Vinay chandra mishra, in re; In this case a senior advocate in on being asked a question in the court started to shout at the judge and said that no question could have been put to him. He threatened to get the judge transferred or see that impeachment motion is brought against him in Parliament. He further said that he has turned up many Judges and created a good scene in the Court. He asked the judge to follow the practice of this Court. He wanted to convey that admission is as a course and no arguments are heard, at this stage. But this act was not only the question of insulting of a Judge of this institution but it is a matter of institution as a whole. In case dignity of Judiciary is not being maintained then where this institution will stand. The concerned judge wrote a letter informing the incident to the chief justice of India. A show cause notice was issued to him.
Whether the advocate had committed a professional misconduct? Is he guilty of the offence of the criminal contempt of the Court for having interfered with and obstructed the course of justice by trying to threaten, overawe and overbear the Court by using insulting, disrespectful and threatening language, and convict him of the said offence. Since the contemner is a senior member of the Bar and also adorns the high offices such as those of the Chairman of the Bar Council of India, the President of the U.P. HC Bar Association, Allahabad and others, his conduct is bound to infect the members of the Bar all over the country. We are, therefore, of the view that an exemplary punishment has to be meted out to him. Thus the contemner Vinay Chandra Mishra is hereby sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of six weeks and he shall stand suspended from practising as an advocate for a period of three years.
Strike As Misconduct
Ex-capt. Harish uppal V. Union of India, Several Petitions raise the question whether lawyers have a right to strike and/or give a call for boycotts of Court/s. The petitioners submitted that strike as a mean for collective bargaining is recognised only in industrial disputes. He submitted that lawyers who are officers of the Court cannot use strikes as a means to blackmail the Courts or the clients. He submitted that the Courts must take action against the Committee members for giving such calls on the basis that they have committed contempt of court. He submitted that the law is that a lawyer who has accepted a Vakalat on behalf of a client must attend Court and if he does not attend Court it would amount to professional misconduct and also contempt of court. He submitted that Court should now frame rules whereby the Courts regulate the right of lawyers to appear before the Court. He submitted that Courts should frame rules whereby any lawyer who mis-conducts himself and commits contempt of court by going on strike or boycotting a Court will not be allowed to practice in that Court. He further submitted that abstention from work for the redressal of a grievance should never be resorted to where other remedies for seeking redressal are available. He submitted that all attempts should be made to seek redressal from the concerned authorities. He submitted that where such redressal is not available or not forthcoming, the direction of the protest can be against that authority and should not be misdirected, e.g., in cases of alleged police brutalities Courts and litigants should not be targeted in respect of actions for which they are in no way responsible. He agreed that no force or coercion should be employed against lawyers who are not in agreement with the “strike call” and want to discharge their professional duties. Respondent submitted that lawyers had a right to go on strike or give a call for boycott. He further submitted that there are many occasions when lawyers require to go, on strike or gave a call for boycott. He submitted that this Court laying down that going on strike amounts to misconduct is of no consequence as the Bar Councils have been vested with the power to decide whether or not an Advocate has committed misconduct. He submitted that this Court cannot penalise any Advocate for misconduct as the power to discipline is now exclusively with the Bar Councils. He submitted that it is for the Bar Councils to decide whether strike should be resorted to or not. Petitioner further relied on the case of Lt. Col. S.J. Chaudhary v. State (Delhi Administration, the HC had directed that a criminal trial go on from day to day. Before this Court it was urged that the Advocates were not willing to attend day to day as the trial was likely to be prolonged. It was held that it is the duty of every advocate who accepts a brief in a criminal case to attend the trial day to day. It was held that a lawyer would be committing breach of professional duties if he fails to so attend. In the case of K. John Koshy and Ors. v. Dr. Tarakeshwar Prasad Shaw, one of the questions was whether the Court should refuse to hear a matter and pass an Order when counsel for both the sides were absent because of a strike call by the Bar Association. This Court held that the Court could not refuse to hear the matter as otherwise it would tantamount to Court becoming a privy to the strike. Considering the sanctity of the legal profession the court had relied on words said in case of “In Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice v. Bar Council of India, the SC observed thus : “It is generally believed that members of the legal profession have certain social obligations, e.g., to render “pro bono publico” service to the poor and the underprivileged. Since the duty of a lawyer is to assist the court in the administration of justice, the practice of law has a public utility flavour and, therefor, an advocate must strictly and scrupulously abide by the Code of Conduct behoving the noble profession and must not indulge in any activity which may tend to lower the image of the profession in society. That is why the functions of the Bar Council include the laying down of standards of professional conduct and etiquette which advocates must follow to maintain the dignity and purity of the profession.” In Re: Sanjeev Datta, the SC has stated thus: “The legal profession is a solemn and serious occupation. It is a noble calling and all those who belong to it are its honourable members. Although the entry to the profession can be had by acquiring merely the qualification of technical competence, the honour as a professional has to be maintained by its members by their exemplary conduct both in and outside the Court. The legal profession is different from other professions in that what the lawyers do, affects not only an individual but the administration of justice which is the foundation of the civilised society. Both as a leading member of the intelligentsia of the society and as a responsible citizen, the lawyer has to conduct himself as a model for others both in his professional and in his private and public life. The society has a right to expect of him such ideal behavior. It must not be forgotten that the legal profession has always been held in high esteem and its members have played an enviable role in public life. The regard for the legal and judicial systems in this country is in no small measure due to the tireless role played by the stalwarts in the profession to strengthen them. They took their profession seriously and practice it with dignity, deference and devotion. If the profession is to survive, the judicial system has to be vitalised. No service will be too small in making the system efficient, effective and credible.” In the case of SC Bar Association v. Union of India, it has been held that professional misconduct may also amount to Contempt of Court. It has further been held as follows: “An Advocate who is found guilty of contempt of court may also, as already noticed, be guilty of professional misconduct in a given case but it is for the Bar Council of the State or Bar Council of India to punish that advocate by either debarring him from practice or suspending his licence, as may be warranted, in the facts and circumstances of each case. The learned Solicitor General informed us that there have been cases where the Bar Council of India taking note of the contumacious and objectionable conduct of an advocate, had initiated disciplinary proceedings against him and even punished him for “professional misconduct”, on the basis of his having been found guilty of committing contempt of court.”
Solicitation of Professional Work
Rajendra V. Pai V. Alex Fernandes and Ors. Court held that debarring a person from pursuing his career for his life is an extreme punishment and calls for caution and circumspection before being passed. No doubt probity and high standards of ethics and morality in professional career particularly of an advocate must be maintained and cases of proved professional misconduct severely dealt with; yet, we strongly feel that the punishment given to the appellant in the totality of facts and circumstances of the case is so disproportionate as to prick the conscience of the Court. Undoubtedly, the appellant should not have indulged into prosecuting or defending a litigation in which he had a personal interest in view of his family property being involved.
Breach of Trust By Misappropriating The Asset Of Client
Harish Chandra Tiwari v. Baiju; Court held on these fact, Appellant Harish Chandra Tiwari was enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of the State of UP in May 1982 and has been practising since then, mainly in the courts at Lakhimpur Kheri District in UP. Respondent Baiju engaged the delinquent advocate in a land acquisition case in which the respondent was a claimant for compensation. The Disciplinary Committee has described the respondent as “an old, helpless, poor illiterate person.” Compensation of Rs. 8118/- for the acquisition of the land of the said Baiju was deposited by the State in the court. Appellant applied for releasing the amount and as per orders of the court he withdrew the said amount on 2.9.1987. But he did not return it to the client to whom it was payable nor did he inform the client about the receipt of the amount. Long thereafter, when the client came to know of it and after failing to get the amount returned by the advocate, compliant was lodged by him with the Bar Council of the State for initiating suitable disciplinary action against the appellant. Court held that among the different types of misconduct envisaged for a legal practitioner misappropriation of the client’s money must be regarded as one of the gravest. In this professional capacity the legal practitioner has to collect money from the client towards expenses of the litigation, or withdraw money from the court payable to the client or take money of the client to be deposited in court. In all such cases, when the money of the client reaches his hand it is a trust. If a public servant misappropriates money he is liable to be punished under the present Prevention of Corruption Act, with imprisonment which shall not be less than one year. He is certain to be dismissed from service. But if an advocate misappropriates money of the client there is no justification in de-escalating the gravity of the misdemeanor. Perhaps the dimension of the gravity of such breach of trust would be mitigated when the misappropriation remained only for a temporary period. There may be justification to award a lesser punishment in a case where the delinquent advocate returned the money before commencing the disciplinary proceedings.
Informing About Bribe: Shambhu Ram Yadav v. Hanuman Das Khatry, the Court upheld the order of bar council of India dated 31st July 1999, which held that the appellant has served as advocated for 50 years and it was not expected of him to indulge in such a practice of corrupting the judiciary or offering bribe to the judge and he admittedly demanded Rs.10,000/- from his client and he orally stated that subsequently order was passed in his client’s favour. This is enough to make him totally unfit to be a lawyer by writing the letter in question. We cannot impose any lesser punishment than debarring him permanently from the practice .His name should be struck off from, the roll of advocates maintained by the Bar Council of Rajasthan. Hereafter the appellant will not have any right to appear in any Court of Law, Tribunal or any authority. Court impose a cost of Rs. 5,000/- to the appellant which should be paid by the appellant to the Bar Council of India which has to be within two months.
The list of instances of professional misconduct is not exhaustive, the Supreme court has widened the scope and ambit of the term misconduct in numerous instances, only few cases has been elaborated above.
||Instance of misconduct
||Held in Case
||Retention of money deposited with advocate for the decree holder even after execution proceedings
||Prahlad Saran Gupta V Bar council of India
||Misguiding Junior Advocate
||Harish Chander Singh V SN Tripathi
||AIR. 1997 SC 879
||Assaulting opponent with Knife in Court room
||Hikmat AliKhan v Ishwar Prasad Arya
||AIR 1997. SC 864
||Scandalisation against Judge
||In re DC Saxena
||AIR 1996 SC 2481
||Attending court with fire arm
||UP Sales tax service association v taxation Bar Association, Agra
||AIR 1996.SC 98
||Discussion of the conduct of judge and pass resolution by bar council, bar association or group of practicing advocates
||C Ravichandran Iyer v Justice AM Bhattacharjee
||1995. (2) KLT, SN 56 case no 77.
||Failure to return will executed and kept in safe custody
||John D Souza v edward Ani
||1994. SC 975
||Constant abstention from conducting of cases
||Onkar Singh V Angrez Singh
||1993, (1) KLT 650, P&H High Court.
||Misappropriation of amount paid
||DS Dalai V State Bank of India
JS Jadhav v Mustafa Haji Mohamed Yusuf
|AIR 1993 SC 1608 / AIR 1993. SC 1535
||Attesting forged affidavit
||M Veerendra Rao v Tek Chand
||AIR 1985 SC 28
||Failure to attend trial after accepting the brief
||SJ Choudhary v State
||AIR 1984 SC 618
||Improper legal advice
||PD Khandekar v Bar Council of Maharastra
||AIR 1984 SC 110
||Misappropriation of Decretal amount
||KV Umre v Venubai
||AIR 1983 SC 1154
||Taking money from client for the purpose of giving bribe
||Chandra Sekhar Soni v Bar Council of Rajastan
||AIR 1983 SC 1012
||Rushing towards potential clients and snatching briefs
||The bar Council of Maharastra v MV Dabholkar
||AIR 1976 SC 242
||Taking advantage of the ignorance and illiteracy of the clients
||NA Mirzan V the disciplinary committee of the Bar council of Maharastra
||AIR 1972 SC 46
||Appearing with out authority on a forged vakalath
||In re advocate
||AIR 1971 Ker 161
||CD Sekkizhar v Secretary, Bar Council, Madras.
||AIR 1967 Mad. 35
||Gross negligence involving moral turpitude
||In the matter of P an Advocate and
VP Kumaravelu v the Bar council of India
|AIR 1963. SC 1313 / AIR 1997 SC 1014
||In re Badri Narin
||AIR 1960 Pt. 307
||Appearing for both sides
||Rambharosa Kalar v Surendra nath Thakur
||AIR 1960 MP 81
||False identification of Deponents
||Brahma din and others v Chandrasekhar Shukla
||AIR 1958 AP 116
||Indecent cross examination
||Shri Narain Jafa V The Hon. Judges of the High Court, Allahabad
||AIR 1953 SC 368
||Shouting political slogans and holding demonstrations in court
||In the matter of a pleader, Ottapalam
||AIR 1943, Mad. 130
||Attending court in drunken state
||In the matter of a lower grade pleader
||AIR 1934 Rang. 423
||Breach of trust
||Bapurao Pakhiddey v Suman Dondey
||1999 (2) SCC 442
||Purushottam Eknath Nemade v DN Mahajun
||1999 (20 SCC 215
||Fraud and forgery
||LC Goyal v Nawal Kishore
Devender Bhai Shanker Mehta v Ramesh Chandra Vithal Dass Seth
|1997 (2) SCC 258 / AIR 1996 SC 2022
Procedure Followed on the Notice of Professional Misconduct
The following is the procedure followed (1) In exercise of powers under Section 35 contained in Chapter V entitled “conduct of advocates”, on receipt of a complaint against an advocate (or suo motu) if the State Bar Council has ‘reason to believe’ that any advocate on its roll has been guilty of “professional or other misconduct”, disciplinary proceeding may be initiated against him.
(2) Neither Section 35 nor any other provision of the Act defines the expression ‘legal misconduct’ or the expression ‘misconduct’.
(3) The Disciplinary Committee of the State Bar Council is authorised to inflict punishment, including removal of his name from the rolls of the Bar Council and suspending him from practice for a period deemed fit by it, after giving the advocate concerned and the ‘Advocate General’ of the State an opportunity of hearing.
(4) While under Section 42(1) of the Act the Disciplinary Committee has been conferred powers vested in a civil court in respect of certain matters including summoning and enforcing attendance of any person and examining him on oath, the Act which enjoins the Disciplinary Committee to ‘afford an opportunity of hearing’ (vide Section 35) to the advocate does not prescribe the procedure to be followed at the hearing.
(5) The procedure to be followed in an enquiry under Section 35 is outlined in Part VII of the Bar Council of India Rules made under the authority of Section 60 of the Act. Rule 8(1) of the said Rules enjoins the Disciplinary Committee to hear the concerned parties that is to say the complainant and the concerned advocate as also the Attorney General or the Solicitor General or the Advocate General. It also enjoins that if it is considered appropriate to take oral evidence the procedure of the trial of civil suits shall as far as possible be followed.
The advocates act 1961 was a long sought after legislation to consolidate the law relating to the legal practioners, constitution of autonomous Bar Councils, prescription of uniform qualification for admission and enrolment of persons as advocates, more importantly it imposes punishment for professional misconduct by advocates and in that respect it acts as a quasi-judicial body. Only body that can be approached for professional misconduct of advocate is Bar council constituted under the Act except for contempt of court which is also a misconduct. However the following criticisms are levelled against the Act in terms of its power to punish for professional and other misconduct;
1) No provision of appeal is provided in the act in respective High courts, hence power of bar Council of the State is equated with that of High court.
2) In ordinary course it is difficult for an advocate to approach the Supreme Court and get the case admitted from an aggrieved order of the Bar Council of India.
3) The act has not defined the term misconduct, instead it has included professional and other misconduct and definition is left to the Bar councils and Supreme court to decide and to widen the scope.
4) Denial of the principle of natural justice to an ordinary litigant who is aggrieved with the misconduct of the advocate, as the body of their association ie Bar council is deciding the case in which their own member is the respondent. This is against the rule that “no man can be a judge in his own case”. The lay person has to approach appropriate fora constituted under Consumer Protection act 1986 to get any pecuniary relief due to the loss caused by such misconduct, if it fits under deficiency of service.
5) At times, based on the circumstances the Act is violative of Article 19 (1) (g), right to practice trade or profession, and also freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19(1)(a).
However the intention of the legislature to uphold the dignity of the profession and to preserve the moral etiquette among legal practioners have been largely achieved by the Act.
Comparable provisions in other countries
England – In England The Legal Profession Act, 1987 is “an Act to regulate the admission and practice of barristers and solicitors” (as amended in 2007) and the The Revised Professional Conduct and Practice Rules made by the Council of the Law Society of New South Wales on 24 August 1995 pursuant to its power under Section 57B of the Legal Profession Act, 1987 and the Statement of Ethics proclaimed by the Law Society of New South Wales in November 1994 governs the conduct in legal profession. From 2010 on wards legal ombudsman is formed to deal with complaints against all lawyers, including solicitors, registered in England and Wales. The Legal Ombudsman replaced the previous complaint handling bodies (for example, the Legal Complaints Service in the case of complaints against solicitors), and has been dealing with new complaints since 6 October 2010. Anyone who is dissatisfied with the standard of service received from their lawyer should complain, in the first instance, to the lawyer concerned. If the matter cannot be resolved in this way, then a complaint may be made to the Legal Ombudsman.
USA – in USA each state has a separate set of rules of practices and different code of conduct for the advocates. For example the newyork state has a separate rules of Professional Conduct promulgated as Joint Rules of the Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court, effective from April 1, 2009. They supersede the former part 1200 (Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility). Indiana state has separate rules for professional conduct, which elaborates in detail about all aspects of professional conduct and code of ethics to be followed by an advocate.
The role of the lawyers in the society is of great importance. They being part of the system of delivering justice holds great reverence and respect in the society. Each individual has a well defined code of conduct which needs to be followed by the person living in the society. A lawyer in discharging his professional assignment has a duty to his client, a duty to his opponent, a duty to the court, a duty to the society at large and a duty to himself. It needs a high degree of probity and poise to strike a balance and arrive at the place of righteous stand, more so, when there are conflicting claims. While discharging duty to the court, a lawyer should never knowingly be a party to any deception, design or fraud. While placing the law before the court a lawyer is at liberty to put forth a proposition and canvass the same to the best of his wits and ability so as to persuade an exposition which would serve the interest of his client and the society.
The advocate, as an officer of the Court, also has the responsibility to render services of sound quality. Lapses in services in the nature of absence when the matters are called out, the filing of incomplete and inaccurate pleadings – many times even illegible and without personal check and verification, the non-payment of court fees and process fees, the failure to remove office objections, the failure to take steps to serve the parties are not merely professional omission. They amount to positive dis-service to the litigants and create embarrassing situation in the court leading to avoidable unpleasantness and delay in the disposal of matters, and detrimentally affects the entire judicial system.
Furthermore, as the officers of the court the lawyers are required to uphold the dignity of the judicial office and maintain a respectful attitude towards the Court. This is because the Bar and the Bench form a noble and dynamic partnership geared to the great social goal of administration of justice, and the mutual respect of the Bar and the Bench is essential for maintaining cordial relations between the two. It is the duty of an advocate to uphold the dignity and decorum of the Court and must not do anything to bring the Court itself into disrepute, and ensure that at no point of time, he oversteps the limits of propriety.
Author: Dr Elbe Peter, MDS, LL.B, Dip Clin Res./ The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of cases
1) State of Punjab v Ram Singh, AIR 1992 SC, 2188
2) Sambhu Ram Yadav v.Hanuman Das Khatry 2001 6 SCC 1. 165
3) Noratanmal Courasia v. M. R. Murali 2004 AIR 2440
4) N.G. Dastane v. Shrikant S. Shinde AIR 2001 SC 2028
5) Bar Council of Maharashtra v. M.V. Dahbolkar. AIR 1976 SC242
6) B. M. Verma v. Uttrakhand Regulatory Commission. Appeal No. 156 of 2007
7) Court of Its Own Motion v. State. 151 2008 DLT 695 (Del., DB)
8) SC Bar Association v. Union of India. 1998. 4 SCC 409
9) Anil Kumar Sarkar v. Hirak Ghosh. 2002. 4 SCC 21
10) R.K. Ananad v. Registrar of Delhi HC. 2009. 8 SCC 106
11) Hikmat Ali khan v. Ishwar prasad arya and ors. 1997 RD-SC 87
12) Vinay chandra mishra, in re, 1995. 2. SCC 584
13) Ex-capt. Harish uppal V. Union of India. 2003(1)ALLMR(SC)1169
14) Lt. Col. S.J. Chaudhary v. State (Delhi Administration. 1984 CriLJ 340
15) K. John Koshy and Ors. v. Dr. Tarakeshwar Prasad Shaw : 1998 8SCC 624
16) Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice v. Bar Council of India. 1995 1,SCR 304
17) In Re: Sanjeev Datta. 1995 CriLJ 2910.
18) SC Bar Association v. Union of India, supra 8
19) Rajendra V. Pai V. Alex Fernandes and Ors. AIR 2002 SC 1808.
20) Harish Chandra Tiwari v. Baiju; AIR 2002 SC 548.
21) Sambhu Ram Yadav v.Hanuman Das Khatry; supra 2
# AIR 1992 S 2188
# (2001) 6 SCC 165
# 2004 AIR 2440
# 2001 AIR SC 2028
# AIR 1976 SC 242
# Appeal No. 156 of 2007
# 151 (2008) DLT 695 (Del., DB)
# (1998) 4 SCC 409
# (2002) 4 SCC 21
# (2009) 8 SCC 106
#  RD-SC 87
# 1995 2 SCC 584
# 1984 CriLJ 340
# 1998 8SCC 624
# 1995 1 SCR 304
# 1995 CriLJ 2910
# Supra 8
# AIR 2002 SC 1808
# AIR 2002 SC 548
# Supra 2
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