Tantamount to Contempt of Court: SC slams Bar Associations in Uttarakhand for boycotting courts on all Saturdays for last 35 years
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Tantamount to Contempt of Court: SC slams Bar Associations in Uttarakhand for boycotting courts on all Saturdays for last 35 years

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today held that the calling of strikes and boycotting of courts by various District Bar Associations in Uttarakhand on a regular basis amounts to "contempt of Court".

The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah today ruled that calling of such strikes and abstaining from work for various reasons cannot be justifiable and is not protected under the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

"To go on strike/boycott courts cannot be justified under the guise of the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Nobody has the right to go on strike/boycott courts. Even, such a right, if any, cannot affect the rights of others and more particularly, the right of Speedy Justice guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution."
Supreme Court

The Court was hearing a matter concerning the practice of strikes being called for by three District Bar Associations of Uttarakhand on every working Saturday. This practice has been going on in Dehradun, Haridwar, and Uddham Singh Nagar District Bar Associations for as many as 35 years the petitioners had contended.

The Uttarakhand High Court had ruled against these strikes, directing the Bar Associations to withdraw the calls for strikes on every working Saturday forthwith. Aggrieved by this order, an appeal was moved before the Supreme Court.Hower

Defending the move to call strikes, the counsel for the Bar Associations told the Apex Court that the "right to go on strikes" is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

He added that strikes were a peaceful mode of representing and expressing the lawyers' grievances. The Advocates Act confers protection upon the lawyers under Section 48 and extends to all acts done in good faith, it was argued.

However, the Bench went on to cite the Supreme Court's judgment in Ex-Capt Harish Uppal v. Union of India, to hold,

"Lawyers have no right to go on strike or even token strike or to give a call for strike. It is also further observed that nor can they while holding Vakalat on behalf of clients, abstain from appearing in courts in pursuance of a call for strike or boycott."

Supreme Court

Slamming the District Bar associations for carrying on this practice for 35 years, the Court said that the ultimate sufferer of these strikes is the litigant. The Bar members in the three districts ought not have continued their calls for strikes even after the Supreme Court ruling against such strikes, the Bench observed.

"Every month on 3-4 Saturdays, the Advocates are on strike and abstain from working, on one pretext or the other. If the lawyers would have worked on those days, it would have been in the larger interest and it would have achieved the ultimate goal of speedy justice, which is now recognized as a fundamental right under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution."
Supreme Court

The Court directed the concerned District Bar Associations to comply with the order of the High Court, and warned them of serious consequences should the directions be not complied with.

Taking note of the trend wherein the Advocates and Bar associations call for strikes and boycott work despite express provisions against the same, the Supreme Court also took suo motu cognizance of the issue.

It has issued notice to the Bar Council of India and various State Bar Councils, asking them to suggesting concrete measures that can be taken. Notice is returnable in six weeks.

Read Judgment:

District Bar Association Dehradun vs Ishwar Shandilya.pdf
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