Recently, the Bar Council of India published the Draft of the ‘Advocates Protection Bill 2021’. A committee comprises of seven members was appointed to frame the bill while keeping in mind the problems and difficulties faced by the advocates and their families in recent times.
The objective of the Bill:
India recently saw a rise in incidents of assault, kidnappings, intimidations, and regular threats caused to advocates for various reasons. As due to their duties, the security of advocates is getting endangered, there shall be an adequate safeguard by the Government. To protect advocates, such a bill was necessary. Therefore, the Advocate Protection bill is for the protection of advocates of India and to remove the obstructions which distract them from discharging their duties. There are various reasons mentioned in the bill that causes obstructions in the performance of duties. On the other hand, as India was a part of, the Bill also came up with the implementation of the 8th United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (1990). The ‘Basic Principles on Role of Lawyers’ was also adopted in this congress. In the declaration part, there are clauses that guarantee the functioning of advocates and make sure that Governments protect them so that they are able to perform their duties and serve society.
Acts of Violence Defined:
In total, the bill contains 16 sections. Section 2 of the bill, defines ‘acts of violence’. These include all the acts which can be committed against an advocate with intent to prejudice or delay the process of impartial, fair, and fearless litigation. According to the bill, these ‘acts’ could be a threat, harassment, coercion, assault, malicious prosecution, criminal force, harm, hurt, injury, loss or damage of property, etc. affects the lifestyle or the working conditions of advocates. The harassment can also be mental harassment.
Punishment and Compensation
Sections 3 and 4 convey the punishment and compensations. Imprisonment can range from 6 months and extend up to 5 years; and for a subsequent offense, can go up to 10 years. There can also be a fine of Rs.50,000 and go up to Rs.1 lakh; and for a subsequent offense, fines can go up to Rs.10 lakhs.
The bill also provides power to the court to evaluate and provide compensation to the advocate for the mental or physical damage.
The investigation by an Officer above the rank of DSP
The bill proposes that the investigation in these offenses shall only be done by a Superintendent of Police or a higher post officer. It has also been stated that the case should be solved and within 30 days of the registration of the FIR. Furthermore, the bill also mentioned the right of police protection to advocates, upon proper investigation by the court.
The bill also contains a provision of constituting a redressal committee of three members for Redressal of Grievances of Advocates and Bar Associations which has been provided at each level of courts. The head of this committee should be the head of the Judiciary of that level. The appointment of the other two members shall be done by the respective Bar Councils through nomination.
Protection Against Suits
It has been clearly stated that a suit cannot be filled against a lawyer who has been working in good faith”. Communications between the advocates and their clients must be respectful and confidential.
Protection Against Arrest and Prosecution
Section 11 provides that a policeman cannot arrest an advocate and/or investigate a case against an advocate without the precise order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate. When information is given to an Officer-in-Charge about any offense done by an Advocate, the Police officer shall input or cause to be entered the substance of data with a book to be kept by such officer and refer the knowledge with other connected materials to the closest Chief Judicial Magistrate, who shall hold a preliminary inquiry into the case and the Chief Judicial Magistrate concerned shall issue notice to the advocate and give an opportunity of hearing to him or to his counsel or representative.
After hearing the if the CJM finds that FIR has been filed against the Advocate for a few malicious reasons emanating from the discharge of official duties of the Advocate then CJM shall grant bail to the Advocate.”
This act proposes that during unforeseen situations such as natural disasters or epidemics, a minimum of Rs.15,000 every month shall be provided by the State and Central government to all needy Advocates of the country as social security.
Presumption on Coercion just in case employee
Section 12 of the bill provides that if any public servant having the power to investigate or arrest under CrPC, is found in possession of or found to use any privileged communication or material which can be shown to be obtained from an advocate in his investigation, it shall be presumed that such privileged communication or material was obtained by such public servant by coercion.
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