After its meeting on June 3, 2021, the Bar Council of India (BCI) amended its rules to make ‘criticism' and ‘attack' of Bar Council decisions by members misconduct and grounds for disqualification, suspension, or removal of a member from the Bar Council.
According to the Amended Rules, which were published in the Gazette on Friday (25th June 2021), an Advocate shall conduct himself/herself as a gentleman/gentle lady in his/her day-to-day life and shall not commit any unlawful act.
The following are the amended provisions:
Amendment in Part-Vl, Chapter-ll of Bar Council of India Rules as per the Functions contains Ed under section 7(1) (b) (c) (d) and (l) and (m) read with the section 49(1) (a) and (ab) of Advocates Act, 1961."
The notification stated that the changes were made to address issues concerning misconduct by Advocate/s that were not specifically mentioned in the Preamble or any of the Sections of this Chapter.
Section-V - Duties towards Society nd Bar:–
[Under section 49(1) (c) of the Advocates Act, 1961]
An Advocate shall conduct himself/herself as a gentleman/gentle lady in his/her day-to-day life and shall not commit any unlawful act; he/she shall not make any statement in the Print, Electronic, or Social Media that is indecent or derogatory, defamatory or motivated, malicious or mischievous against any Court, Judge, or member of the Judiciary, or against the State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India, nor shall any Advocate engage in any willful violation, disregard, or defiance of any resolution or order of the State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India, and any such act/conduct shall constitute misconduct, and such Advocates shall be liable to be prosecuted under Section-35 or 36 of the Advocates' Act, 1961."
Following are the provisions of Section-V:
Section -VA:– Code of Conduct and Disqualification for members of Bar Councils:
[Under Section 49(1) (a) and (ab) of the Advocates Act, 1961]
(I) No Member of any State Bar Council or of the Bar Council of India shall be permitted to publish anything or make any Statement or Press-Release in Print, Electronic, or Social Media in opposition to any Resolution or Order of the concerned State Bar Council or of the Bar Council of India, or to make/use any derogatory or abusive language/comment/s/word/s against the Bar Council or its office-bearers or members.
(II) Any decision of a State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India shall not be criticized or attacked in the public domain by any Member/s of the Bar Council.
(III) No Advocate or Member of a State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India shall challenge the dignity or authority of the State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India.
(IV) Violation of this code of conduct's clauses I to (iii) may amount to other misconduct under Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961, and/or violation of Section-V and/or V-A may result in suspension or removal of such member's membership from the Bar Council.Depending on the gravity of the misconduct, the Bar Council of India may declare such Advocates (as mentioned above in Section-V) or any Member of the Bar Council ineligible to run for election to any Bar Association or Bar Council for any period of time. The State Bar Council/s may refer any member's misconduct or violation of these Rules to the Bar Council of India.
Note: Provided, however, that a healthy and genuine criticism made in good faith shall not be considered "misconduct";
(v) For declaring any Advocate or Member of Bar Council as disqualified from contesting the elections as aforesaid, Bar Council of India shall be required to hold an inquiry by a “3 Member Committee” headed by a Former Chief Justice or a former Judge of any High Court.The Committee shall be appointed by the Bar Council of India and may include any member of the Bar Council of India, a member or officer of any State Bar Council, or any Advocate with at least 25 years of experience at the Bar.
(vi) Following any such referral of a case by the Bar Council of India, the committee shall issue notice to the concerned Advocate(s)/Member(s) and provide them with an opportunity to be heard. Following consideration of the Committee's report, the Bar Council of India will make a decision.
(vii) The proceedings for disqualification before the Bar Council of India and/or the Committee/s constituted by it shall be conducted in accordance with natural justice principles, and the order will be deemed to be issued under Section 49(1)(a) or 49(1)(ab).”