Ask state bar council to dispose complaints against advocates with a year: SC to Bar Council of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has directed the Bar Council of India (BCI) to issue directions to state bar councils to dispose of the complaints against lawyers received under Section 35 of the Advocates Act within a year.
The top court further directed BCI to dispose of the transferred complaints within a period of one year from the date of receipt of such complaints.
A bench comprising justices M R Shah and B V Nagarathna said complaints should be transferred from the state to BCI only in exceptional cases with valid reasons.
“We direct the Bar Council of India to finally dispose of the transferred complaints, the particulars of which are referred to hereinabove expeditiously but not later than one year from today and for which even the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of India may hold circuit hearings.
“We also direct the respective State Bar Councils to decide and dispose of the complaint(s) received by it under Section 35 expeditiously and to conclude the same within a period of one year from the date of receipt of the complaint as mandated under Section 36B of the Advocates Act,” the bench said.
The top court said under the Advocates Act, a duty is cast upon the BCI and state bar councils to safeguard the integrity of the legal profession.
It is duty of the BCI and respective state bar councils to ensure the nobility of the legal system at all costs, it said in its judgement on Friday.
“The powers to conduct disciplinary proceedings against members of the Bar are provided under Sections 35 and 36B of the Advocates Act. The mandate is to dispose of the complaint received under Section 35 and/or Section 36 within a period of one year from the date of receipt of the said complaint and/or from the date of such proceeding to the Bar Council of India.
“By not disposing of the complaint within the stipulated time provided under the Act would tantamount to failure on their part to perform the duty cast under the Advocates Act,” the bench said.
The court said that having regard to the fact that 1246 complaints are pending before the BCI, it is just and necessary that a mechanism be found for disposal of the said complaints in accordance with the procedure prescribed.
“For an efficient and quick disposal of the complaints by the Bar Council of India, BCI may consider empanelling experienced and seasoned advocates and/or retired judicial officers to act as inquiry officers where an inquiry would be necessitated.
“On such inquiry being concluded the report of the inquiry officers could be received by the Bar Council of India. On consideration of the said inquiry report, the Bar Council of India could pass appropriate orders on the complaint,” the bench said.
The apex court said the suggestion is being made bearing in mind the number of complaints that are pending before BCI.
“Hence the Bar Council of India may issue suitable directions to the State Bar Council to enlist a panel of Inquiry Officers for the purpose of conducting the inquiry on behalf of the Bar Council of India in the respective States itself and on conclusion of the said inquiry to transmit the inquiry report to the Bar Council of India for enabling it to take it further action in the matter.
“This would also enable the complainants and the concerned advocates against whom the complaints are made to appear before the Inquiry Officers wherever such an inquiry is instituted in the State where the complaint has been filed,” the bench said.
The top court said this would also remove the difficulties caused to the parties to travel from various parts of the country to Delhi for appearing before the inquiry, if any, to be conducted on the complaints filed by the complainants.

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