The complex legal system of today cannot exist without its experts. A lawyer is a person who possesses expert knowledge of law and has practical skill in its working. In India lawyers are officers of the court helping judges in the administration of justice. A well organized and independent legal profession is not only a pre condition for proper administration of justice, but it is also a necessary ingredient and guarantor of the rule of law.
The first time an attempt was made to organize the legal profession was by Lord Cornwallis in one thousand seven hundred ninety three, who by Regulation VII authorised the sadar Diwani Adalat to enroll pleaders for the Company’s courts in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
The Charter of one thousand seven hundred seventy four empowered the Supreme Court at Calcutta to enroll advocates and attorneys. However only English and Irish barristers and attorneys were allowed and no Indian had the right to appear before the Court.
The Legal Practitioners Act, one thousand eight hundred seventy nine was a comprehensive legislation to consolidate and amend the law relating to legal practitioners. The Act gave wide powers to the High Courts to enroll lawyers for different courts and also to take disciplinary action against them. They had the powers to make rules with respect to the qualifications and admission of proper persons as advocates and vakils of the courts. The High Courts were also authorised to make rules with respect to qualifications and admission of pleaders and mukhtars for the subordinate courts. An important provision of the Act which continues to exist even now, empowered the District Judges, Session Judges, District Magistrates etc. to publish the list of courts.
The dissatisfaction over the distinction between vakils and advocates with respect to appearance on the original side of the High Courts and also a demand for an All India Bar, led to the appointment of the Indian Bar Committee, one thousand nine hundred twenty three under the chairman ship of Sir Edward Chamrier. Committee recommended the establishment of a Bar Council for each High Court. It became the basis of the passing of the Indian Bar Councils Act.
Indian Bar Councils Act, one thousand nine hundred twenty six established a Bar Council for each High Court consisting of fifteen members, one of whom was the Advocate- General as the ex-officio Chairman. The roll of all the practitioners enrolled under a High Court was to be maintained by that High Court which had the power to enrot them and also of taking disciplinary action against them. The Act still left much of that what was desired Legal practitioners were still dissatisfied as no active autonomy had been given to the profession. The Bar Councils were simply advisory bodies and the real powers vested in the High Courts. Another grouse was against the distinction between advocates and attorneys and restrictions on advocates of one High Court to appear in another High Court.
After Independence, the Advocates Act, one thousand nine hundred sixty one gave a right to every advocate of the Supreme Court to practise in any High Court. Lawyers community still wanted a unified autonomous body with no class distinctions among lawyers. In view of their demand, an All India Bar Committee was appointed in one thousand nine hundred fifty one, under the Chairmanship of Justice S. R. Das. The committee recommended creation of an all India Bar Council with common roll of all advocate and also the Bar Council for States with larger autonomy. It also recommended that only law graduates should be enrolled as advocates. These recommendations were endorsed by the Law Commission in one thousand nine hundred fifty eight, and they became the basis of the Advocates Act, one thousand nine hundred sixty one.
Dissatisfaction with this kind of arrangement continued to mount among the legal practitioners. They got a new stimulus on the establishment of the Supreme Court in 1950. The Supreme Court Advocates (Practice in High Courts) Act, one thousand nine hundred fifty one, gave a right to every advocate of the Supreme Court to practice in any High Court. But that was not enough. Lawyer community wanted unified autonomous bar with no class distinctions among lawyers. In view of their demand, in one thousand nine hundred fifty one the Government of India appointed the all India Bar Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice S.R. Das to report on the desirability of an all India Bar Council and a separate Bar Council for the Supreme Court, abolition of the distinction between counsel and solicitors existing in Calcutta and Bombay High Courts, abolition of different classes of lawyers, consolidation of the existing laws on the subject, and all other connected matters.
The Advocate Act, one thousand nine hundred sixty one was passed to redress long standing demands of the Indian Lawyers Community. The main provisions of the Act are,
(1) The Act which extends to the whole of India provides a federal structure for legal profession. It provides for a number of State Bar Councils and Bar Councils of India.
(2) It provides for only one category of lawyers to be known as advocates.
(3) An advocate is initially enrolled with a State Bar Council and a common roll of all the advocates in the Country is maintained by the Bar Council of India. No advocate can get himself enrolled with more than one State Bar Council, though he can get himself transferred from one State Bar Council to another and is also entitled to appear before any court or tribunal throughout the country.
(4) State Bar Councils consist of 15 to 20 members, elected by the advocates. The Advocate General of the State concerned is the ex officio Member. Every State Bar Council has the following committee,—
(a) Executive Committee
(b) Enrolment Committee
(c) One or more Disciplinary Committees
(d) One or more Legal Aid Committees
(e) Committees for Special Projects
The function of a State Bar Council are,
(1) To admit advocates on its roll,
(2) To entertain and determine cases of misconduct against advocates on its roll,
(3) To safeguard the rights, privileges, and interests of advocates on its roll,
(4) To conduct seminars, organize talks and publish legal periodicals,
(5) To organize legal aid for the poor,
(6) To perform any other functions conferred on it under the Act,
- The Bar Council of India is the National body of lawyers. It consists of,
(a) The Attorney General of India
(b) The Solicitor General, and
(c) One member elected by each State Bar Council from amongst its members.
The Bar Council of India has the following committees,
(a) Executive Committee
(b) Legal Education Committee
(c) Disciplinary Committee
(d) One or more Committees for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the Act
The functions entrusted to the Bar Council of India are,
(1) Laying down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for advocates and the procedure to be followed by its Disciplinary Committee and the Disciplinary Committees of each State Bar Council,
(2) Promotion of law reform,
(3) Supervisions and control over State Bar Councils,
(4) Promotion of legal education,
(5) Recognition of universities whose degree will qualify a person to be enrolled as an advocate as well as recognition of foreign qualifications for the same purpose,
(6) Conducting of seminars and talks on legal matters and publishing of legal journals,
(7) Organizing legal aid for the poor,
(8) All other functions conferred by the Act.
The Advocates Act, one thousand nine hundred sixty one, materializes a long dream of the members of legal profession to have an all India Bar and professional autonomy. The Act also achieves other connected objectives such as the improvement of legal education and uniformity of standards.
An analysis of the functioning of Bar Councils reveals that even though they have been effective in matter of rights of lawyers, their attitude towards duties of lawyers has been lax, Growing indiscipline among the lawyers community in India, and lack of action by the Bar Councils is a serious matter which needs immediate action. Lawyers are the pillars of rule of law, and their declining public image does not augur well for the future.