Lawyers lay siege to Madras High Court

The protest by lawyers against the changes to the statutory rules affected traffic near the Madras High Court on Monday. — Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

Despite the unprecedented crackdown by the > Bar Council of India, which suspended 126 Tamil Nadu lawyers, more than 3,000 advocates from across the State thronged the city on Monday to lay siege to the Madras High Court, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the recent amendments to the statutory rules of the court that empower judges to debar errant lawyers from continuing practice.

The protest by the lawyers threw traffic out of gear in and around the commercial hub of Broadway and Anna Salai. The police had a tough time preventing lawyers from jumping over barricades outside the High Court complex. Late in the night, the police detained hundreds of lawyers and set them free subsequently even as those spearheading the protests warned that the agitation would gain in intensity in the coming days.

Speaking to The Hindu, advocate P. Thirumalairajan, chief coordinator of the Joint Action Committee, said: “Today’s protest against the draconian law is a great success, as the Chief Justice himself has closed down all the gates of the High Court. We will continue our protest and court boycotts unless and until the new rules are withdrawn.”

New provisions

For nearly two months, the advocates have been protesting against the amendments made to the 46-year-old statutory Rules of the High Court. The new provisions included to Rule 14 empower judges to debar advocates who browbeat or abuse judges, lay siege to court halls, tamper with court records, appear in court under the influence of liquor, spread unsubstantiated allegations against judges or accept money either in the name of a judge or on the pretext of influencing him.

So far, a court could debar advocates only on the grounds of contempt of court. But the recent amendment empowers the High Court and the Principal District Judges (PDJ) in every district to debar lawyers indulging in misconduct, such as sending representations to superior courts with unfounded allegations against judges.

After a series of protests by the advocates and representations, Chief Justice S.K. Kaul assured the lawyers that no precipitate action would be taken against them under the new rules.

Panel constituted

The Chief Justice then constituted a five-judge committee to look into the issue and called upon the protesting lawyers to withdraw court boycotts and attend deliberations with the committee.

Refusing to accept his suggestions, the advocates demanded the immediate withdrawal of the rules and abstained from court proceedings, due to which almost all subordinate court proceedings were stalled for over a month.

In a bid to intensify their struggle, various Bar associations, including the High Court associations, gave a call to lay siege to the High Court. In view of this, the entire High Court was turned into a fortress, and entry was restricted even for advocates.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 10:55:36 PM |

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