The Bar Council of India has released the Draft of the Advocates Protection Bill 2021 to safeguard the interest of advocates and their families keeping in mind the challenges faced by them during the course of their profession. The killing of a Telangana-based lawyer and his wife may be considered as one of the contributing factor behind such proposal. The main reason behind the proposal is unclear but the recent spike in assaults, kidnappings, intimidation, and constant threats highlights the need of the Bill.
Objective of the Bill
The preamble states that the Bill protects lawyers and their obligations in the discharge of their duties. The primary intent behind such a proposal is the protection of the lawyers and the removal of obstacles in their performance.
The Bill has been drafted on the lines of the 8th Congress of the United Nations on Crime Prevention and Offender Treatment (1990), of which India was one of its members. The ‘Basic Principles on the Roles of Lawyers’ were also approved at this conference. Clause 16 of the guidelines read, “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their duty, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities”. It also argues that social security must be ensured and a minimum necessity for life for advocates.
MEASURES UNDER THE BILL
Act of Violence defined
Section 2 of the Bill defines a clear definition of ‘acts of violence as all such acts committed against the advocates with an intent to prejudice or derail the process of impartial, fair and fearless litigation. The following categories of harm are included:
- Harassment, coercion, assault, criminal force, or threat preventing him from discharging his duties.
- Harm, injury, hurt, either grievous or simple, or danger to the life of such advocates
- Coercion by whatsoever means to reveal confidential information
- Loss or damage to any property or documents under the authority of a lawyer
- Usage of derogatory language during the course of the judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings.
Punishment for Offences
Section 3 of the proposed Bill provides a punishment which shall be not less than six months but may extend to five years and with a fine up to One Lakh rupees. In the case of repeated offenders, it may get extended up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine up to 10 Lakh INR . Further, under Section 4, the victim advocate shall also be provided compensation payable by the offender, as decided by the court of law.
Section 5 of the proposed Bill ensures that cases registered under Section 3 shall be investigated by a police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police. Further, it must be ascertained that the investigation gets completed within 30 days from the date of registration of the First Information Report. The trial must not be conducted in any court inferior to a District and Sessions Judge.
One of the most important measures under the bill is providing police protection to the advocates under threat. The duration of the protection must be decided by the Court keeping in mind the personal antecedents of such an advocate, including his criminal record. Further, it must be withdrawn only after the approval of the Registrar of the concerned High Court, where the advocate is practicing.
Social Security Measures
The draft intends to safeguard the advocates in terms of social security as well. It proposes the State and Central government make provisions to provide financial assistance of a minimum of Rs. 15000 per month to all needy Advocates in case of unforeseen situations such as natural disasters or epidemics.
Protection against Arrest
Section 9 of the Bill prohibits the filing of any suit against any Advocate for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in the due conduct of duties of such Advocate. Further, if the Court finds that any suit has been filed against an advocate out of malicious intent to derail the process of impartial, fair, and fearless conduct of any litigation, such suits shall be dismissed with immediate effects with costs imposed.
View on the Bill
In the author’s view, such protection will protect the lawyers against any arbitrary interference in the restoration of justice and BCI should be applauded for this move. Judges and police personnel have adequate protection granted to them. However, lawyers, which are the crucial link between the court and victim, do not get any security. Lawyers are officers of the court who help the justice delivery system to dispense its duties effectively. We have witnessed a lot of cases where the lawyers get killed by the opposing party fighting for the cause of victims such as threats passed on lawyer arguing for rape survivor against the UP leader Kuldeep Sengar . This bill was the need of the hour. However, the protection must be safeguarded against any misuse for personal gain.