Rajasthan: For the past month, the state of Rajasthan has been grappling with a significant legal crisis, as nearly 110,000 legal practitioners continue their widespread strike. This mass demonstration is driven by the demand for the enactment of the Advocate Protection Act, which has led to the suspension of legal proceedings in around 1,250 courts across the region. Consequently, the strike has had a detrimental impact on litigants, causing numerous challenges in relation to the processing of bail and stay applications.
It is noteworthy that the state is home to five major bar associations, including three located in Jaipur and two in Jodhpur, in addition to 300 bar associations operating at the district and sub-block levels.The strike has been causing immense hardship to litigants who are unable to obtain legal recourse. This has created a backlog of cases, with urgent hearings of applications being severely affected.
The legal profession is one of the pillars of democracy and plays a crucial role in ensuring the protection of the rights and liberties of citizens. The ongoing strike has severely undermined this essential function of the legal system, leading to widespread discontent and unrest among the public.
Advocate's murder trigger strike in Raj
A shocking incident took place in Jodhpur on February 18 where a senior advocate, Jugraj Chauhan, was attacked by two men in broad daylight when he was riding his two-wheeler. He was attacked and wounded with a knife multiple times, and when he was on the road and unable to move, his head was crushed with a heavy stone, leading to his death on the spot. The incident was recorded in a CCTV footage and sent shockwaves across social media.
The strike was triggered by the murder of the advocate. Several other incidents of violence against lawyers have also taken place in recent times, highlighting the need for such a law.
Attacks on lawyers in recent past
- On April 11, 2022, a 65-year-old advocate of Andhra Pradesh High Court was murdered. The police suspected that a real estate-related legal dispute, for which the advocate was appearing, may have led to his murder.
- On September 8, 2021, an advocate, Mahesh Nagar, was returning home at Kachara from Noida in his car at 10 pm when he was stopped by police personnel near a check post. They seized his mobile phone and illegally detained him for three hours.
- A cyclist was arrested some days ago on the Pune-Bengaluru Highway for assaulting a 41-year-old corporate lawyer.
- A mob of roughly 20 individuals savagely attacked two lawyers who were meeting with their clients with swords.
- A shocking incident in Rohini Court took
place where 2 criminals entered the court in an outfit of an advocate and they killed Gangster Gogi and police killed them during an encounter which resulted in the death of a total of 4 people.
" Advocacy is a noble profession, and it plays a crucial role in upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of individuals in society. However, the recent incidents of violence against advocates, including murders, assaults, and illegal detention, are highly concerning and require urgent attention from the authorities" says Naman Mohnot , a senior lawyer at Jodhpur High Court.
" Apart from enacting the Advocates Protection Act, the government must also take measures to sensitize the police and other law enforcement agencies about the importance of the legal profession and the need to protect advocates. The police must be trained to handle cases of violence against advocates sensitively and effectively, and any officer found guilty of dereliction of duty must be held accountable" Arpit Paliwal, a lawyer and Judicial Service aspirant from Nathdwara, Rajsamand told The Mooknayak.
Cognizance of Strike by Rajasthan High Court
The Rajasthan High Court has taken cognizance of the strike which directed the bar associations on March 2 to furnish affidavits by 21 March, explaining the boycott. The Bar Council of India Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra too met the protesting advocates some days back , he also directed the State Bar Council of Rajasthan to take measures to end the strike.
The Government's Stand
Law Minister Shantilal Dhariwal had held discussion in a virtual meeting with delegates of the Joint Struggle Committee of Lawyers last week.
Dhariwal, PHED minister Mahesh Joshi, agriculture minister Lalchand Kataria, revenue minister Ramlal Jat, food and civil supplies minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, minister of state for ayurveda Subhash Garg, principal law secretary Gyan Prakash, law secretary Anupama Bijlani represented the government in the talks. AAG Vibhuti Bhushan Sharma; HC Advocates' Association's Jodhpur president Ranjit Joshi; HC Lawyers' Association's Jodhpur chief Ravi Bhansali; HC Bar Association's Jaipur general secretary Balram Vashisht; JBA president Kamal Kishore and general secretary Manoj Sharma represented the lawyers.
The Minister assured the delegation that the bill would be tabled in the Assembly this week and would be passed and enacted by March 21. On the assurance of the state government the lawyers postponed their plan for the Vidhana Sabha gherao which was scheduled for March 13. However, the representatives from Bar Associations unanimously refused to adhere to the government's request to terminate the state side strike and work suspension.
Girdhar Singh Bhati , the general secretary of Rajasthan High Court Advocates Association announced that the lawyers would continue a voluntary boycott of work until the Advocate Protection Bill is enacted and implemented in the state.
Main Provisions of Advocates Protection Bill 2021:
The Bar Council of India issued the Advocates Protection Bill on July 2, 2021. The statute was drafted by a seven-member team with the problems and difficulties faced by advocates and their families in mind. The main objectives for the bill are said to be the protection of advocates and the removal of restrictions to their ability to fulfil their tasks. A variety of circumstances are mentioned in the bill that obstructs the execution of tasks.
The Main Objective of this bill is to prevent and provide security to advocates from physical and mental harm for the functioning of the administration of justice.
The Advocates Protection Bill 2021 consists of a total of 16 sections, including the main provisions like:
- Section 2 of this following act talks about the Acts of Violence which means any act which disturbs, affects which is not biased and is of unfair means and any other means results in the working and living condition of an advocate may fall under this category.
-Section 3 of this act talks about the punishment of up to six months and a maximum of five years if anyone who commits, aid or abets any crime against an advocate may fall under this particular section.
-Compensation Section covers under Section 4 of this act which is of fifty thousand rupees and it will extend up to one lakh rupees and may further increase up to ten lakh rupees for the same offence.
Investigation under section 3 of this act shall be commenced not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, This Particular section also defines the provision of speedy trial and remedy under this section and specific investigation shall be completed within the thirty days from the registration of the complaint as specified under section.5(2) and section 5(3) of this particular act.
-Protection of Advocates from threats and violence is covered under section 7 of this act by police protection for the duration of which the court deems fit before filing an application before the Hon’ble High Court with proper jurisdiction.
- Section 10 talks about the protection of advocate which says no proceedings shall be commenced against an advocate if he/she has done something in a good faith or in the conduct of their duties, This Particular Section also states that advocates can form or join professional groups and associations to raise their interests, education, legal aid services, professionalism, without any undue influence.
- Protection of Advocates from Illegal detention and
Malicious Prosecution is granted under section 11 of the Advocates Protection Bill 2021 which talks about that no police officer shall arrest or investigate any matter against an advocate unless the specific order was given by Chief Judicial Magistrate or Metropolitan Magistrate.
-Section 15 talks about Loan facilities to the needy advocates if the Central Government may issue proper circulars and directions to the Public Sector Undertakings and Scheduled Banks at a reasonable rate of interest.
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