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OPINION: A step towards lesser strikes by lawyers- SC takes strong objection to repeated strikes

The Supreme Court in the landmark case of Hussain and Anr v Union of India on March 9, 2018 minced no words in making it absolutely clear that lawyers strike and suspension of court work is illegal. We know it all too well how, especially in lower courts, strikes are called frequently on one pretext or the other. It is the undertrial prisoners who bear the maximum brunt because of repeated strikes and are compelled to further rot in prison till the lawyers call off their strikes.

It has been seen time and again that in lower courts especially the lawyers go on strike whenever any lawyer dies after a condolence resolution is passed. The Bench suggested that condolence references can be once in while periodically say once in two/three months and not frequently. The Supreme Court has held that suspension of court work or strikes are clearly illegal and it is high time that the legal fraternity realizes its duty to the society which is the foremost.

A Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice AK Goel and UU Lalit observed this while issuing guidelines to tackle the pendency of cases. It was pointed out by the Bar that obstruction of court proceedings by uncalled for strikes/abstaining of work by lawyers or frequent suspension of court work after condolence references were matters of great concern. The Bench suggested that in view of judgment of this Court in Ex Captain Harish Uppal versus Union of India (2003) 2 SCC 45, such suspension of work or strikes are clearly illegal and it is high time that the legal fraternity realizes its duty to the society, which is the foremost. It was also held that, “The condolence references can be once in while periodically say once in two/three months and not frequently”.

The Bench observed that “Hardships faced by witnesses if their evidence is not recorded on the day they are summoned or impact of delay on undertrials in custody on account of such avoidable interruptions of court proceedings was a matter of concern for any responsible body of professionals and they must take appropriate steps.” The Apex Court also minced no words in making it absolutely clear that, “In any case, this needs attention of all concerned authorities – the Central Government/State Governments/Bar Councils/Bar Associations as well as the High Court and ways and means ought to be found out to tackle this menace.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench of Apex Court also directed that the High Courts may take such stringent measures as may be found necessary in the light of judgment of Ex Captain Harish Uppal Vs Union of India. In this landmark case of Harish Uppal in 2002, a three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held categorically that, “Lawyers have no right to go strike or give a call for boycott, not even on a token strike.” It was also held in this case that, “Consistent with the above judgment, the High Courts must monitor this aspect strictly and take stringent measures as may be required in the interests of administration of justice.”

It was also held by the Apex Court that, “Judicial service as well as legal service are not like any other services. They are missions for serving the society. The mission is not achieved if the litigant who is waiting in the queue does not get his turn for a long time. Chief Justices and Chief Ministers have resolved that all cases must be disposed of within five years which by any standard is quite a long time for a case to be decided in the first court. Decision of cases of undertrials in custody is one of the priority areas. There are obstructions at every level in enforcement of right of speedy trial – vested interests or unscrupulous elements try to delay the proceedings. Lack of infrastructure is another handicap. In spite of all odds, determined efforts are required at every level for success of the mission. Ways and means have to be found out by constant thinking and monitoring. Presiding Officer of a court cannot rest in the state of helplessness.”

In a nutshell, this judgment is being hailed for strongly coming out against repeated strikes by lawyers. It empowers the concerned High Courts to take such stringent measures as may be found necessary in the light of the landmark judgment in Uppal case! One fervently hopes that this judgment will go a long way in checking frequent strikes by lawyers which is the primary object of this landmark judgment!

Read the judgment below:

Hussain_0-watermark

Sanjeev Sirohi is an Advocate from Meerut. Views expressed are personal of the author. The Indian Jurist does not take responsibility for the views expressed or facts stated.

Image courtesy Press Trust of India.

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