Jurists say their apprehensions are unfounded and based on misconception

Thousands of lawyers across the State will abstain from attending court proceedings on Monday opposing the National Commission for Higher Education and Research Bill, the Foreign Education Providers Bill and the Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Act, 2008.

The Federation of District and Subordinate Courts' Bar Associations of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry feels that these two Bills and the Act would pave the way for “foreign legal firms to invade the country and destroy the time-tested contribution made by the members of the legal profession to the development of legal education in the country.”

Speaking to The Hindu over the phone from Salem, federation chairman P. Paramasivam said the LLP Act allowed foreign lawyers to establish law firms in partnership with Indian advocates. “This means that they would launch their profession through backdoor methods, thereby crushing the practice of Indian advocates,” he added.

Further, he was of the view that the Act would enable businessmen and unruly elements to open law firms along with Indian advocates and it might spoil the ethics of the profession. “Ultimately, eminent and efficient lawyers would be eliminated and the expression ‘noble' attached to the profession would be swept away,” he said.

However, some eminent jurists feel that the lawyers' apprehensions were unfounded and based on misconception of the proposed enactments. The jurists were of the opinion that no foreign lawyer would be interested in entering Indian court halls and arguing cases for the common man.

If at all the foreign law firms would be interested in anything, it would be in new and emerging branches of law such as Intellectual Property Rights, Trade Marks, Patents and international arbitration proceedings between multinational companies. The irony was that a majority of the Indian lawyers stand alienated from these.

Call for introspection

At present, only a few top legal firms manned by outgoing students of elite law schools and a small group of senior counsel were enjoying a virtual monopoly over the new branches of law where the big money lies. Hence, what the bar associations need to do was an introspection of these issues rather than concentrating on court boycotts.

According to statistics obtained from reliable sources for 2009, lawyers in Chennai had abstained from attending court proceedings for 32 days, those in Coimbatore did so for 56 days, Dharmapuri 76, Dindigul 53, Nagercoil 82, Madurai 44, Ramanathapuram 46 and Salem 46 days.

Providing a grim picture, lawyers in Madurai had boycotted the courts for 58 days in 2006, 61 days in 2007 and 47 in 2008. Similarly, in 2008 alone, Gudiyatham lawyers abstained from courts for 79 days, Villupuram 68 days, Pudukottai 68, Ariyalur 87, Namakkal 82, Kanyakumari 58, and so on.

Peculiar to State

These abstentions from court proceedings were peculiar to Tamil Nadu and have happened despite the Supreme Court's categorical ruling in Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal Vs. Union of India on December 17, 2002 that it would be unprofessional and unbecoming of a lawyer to refuse to attend court in pursuance of a call for strike or boycott by the bar associations.

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