NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday frowned upon advocates of the Delhi high court abstaining from work to protest the transfer of Justice Gaurang Kanth to the Calcutta HC, and asked the Bar Council of India (BCI) to furnish details of strikes called by lawyers’ bodies in the last one year across the country and action taken against their office-bearers.
Holding that lawyers could not be allowed to go on strike to bring the justice delivery system to a standstill, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia said there were many other methods to hold protest and advocates could not stop courts from functioning as it hampered the interests of litigants who approached courts for justice. Lawyers blocking justice delivery was unacceptable, they said.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO ‘Common Cause’ seeking contempt proceedings against lawyers who resort to strike in violation of the apex court’s judgment. Appearing for the NGO, advocate Prashant Bhushan said the BCI had failed to take action against errant advocates.
BCI chairman and senior advocate Manan Mishra, however, told the bench that the council had recently drafted rules containing provisions to take action against lawyers going on strike and said he would place it before the court. “You can have a difference of views. It is not necessary that people have to think alike. But like we have said before, you cannot boycott courts of law, stop people from getting bail or the administration of justice. Stopping court proceedings is not acceptable,” the bench said.
Earlier, lawyers stayed away from work in the Delhi HC after the high court bar association’s call for a ‘token protest’ against the transfer of Justice Kanth to Calcutta HC. The bar association had passed a resolution on July 15 expressing concern over the SC collegium’s recommendation to shift Justice Kanth.
The lawyers’ body had said it would adversely affect the dispensation of justice on account of reduction in strength of judges in Delhi HC and asked its members to abstain from work on July 17.
The SC referred to its earlier order directing registration of an FIR against striking advocates in Odisha’s district courts and said it was forced to pass the harsh order to get lawyers back to work. The court granted two weeks time to BCI to compile the information and file an affidavit.
Sending a stern message to lawyers that resorting to strike and vandalism would not be allowed and the court would not shy away from punishing them, the SC in December last year had directed the Odisha government and the police to prosecute lawyers for creating ruckus inside courtrooms in different districts while protesting for creation of a new bench of the HC.

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