Amended Bar Council of India Rules violate fundamental rights: Plea filed in Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has heard a case challenging the recently updated Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules, which prohibit criticism of the regulating body as well as State Bar Councils across the country. The plea, filed by two lawyers from Mumbai and Kerala, asks the Supreme Court to intervene immediately to stop the impugned Rules from taking effect and declare them illegal and void. The Supreme Court has ruled that Sections V and V-A added to Part VI, Chapter II of The Bar Council of India Rules violate the Advocates Act, 1961, and Articles 14, 19(1)(c), and 21. The challenged Rules provide that "criticism" and "attack" on the Bar Council by its members will result in a member's disqualification, suspension, or removal from the Bar Council. “It is unfathomable for a body like the Bar Council of India to bring an amendment of such ramifications, suffocating the very freedom of speech and expression without which the right to life is useless, keeping the Bar and the general public in the dark,” the petition said. The Bar Council of India (BCI) has amended its Rules to make any statement made by a lawyer that is indecent or derogatory, defamatory, motivated, malicious, or mischievous against any court, judge, State Bar Council, or the BCI a basis for suspension or cancellation of a lawyer's licence to practise law. Furthermore, criticising or disparaging any State Bar Council or Bar Council of India judgement in the public realm may be considered "misconduct," and will result in disqualification or suspension. In his or her daily life, an Advocate shall act as a gentleman/gentle lady, and he or she shall not commit any unlawful act, nor shall he or she 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 the United States. Misconduct is punishable under Section 35, which includes suspension from practise or disqualification. On June 25, the revised amendment was published in the Gazette.