The Supreme Court yesterday said no lawyer can go on strike or abstain from court work and asked all High Courts to constitute 'grievance redressal committees' headed by their chief justices to address the problems of advocates.

A bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah acknowledged members of the Bar might have genuine grievances and a forum must be there where they can ventilate them.

"We once again reiterate that no member of the Bar can go on strike and/or abstain himself from court working. Time and again, this Court has emphasised and criticized the advocates going on strike and abstaining from work," the bench said.

It said if a member of the Bar has any genuine grievance or is facing difficulty because of procedural changes in filing/listing of matters or pertaining to misbehaviour by a member of district judiciary, they can make a representation to the committees seeking redress so that strikes can be avoided.

"Therefore, we request all the High Courts to constitute Grievance Redressal Committee in their respective High Courts which may be headed by the Chief Justice and such a grievance redressal committee be consisting of two other senior Judges, one each from service and one from the Bar to be nominated by the Chief Justice as well as the Advocate General, Chairman of the Bar Council of the State and President of the High Court Bar Association", it said.

The bench said the High Courts may also consider constituting similar committees at the district court level.

"It is observed that the Grievance Redressal Committee may consider the genuine grievance related to the difference of opinion or dissatisfaction because of procedural changes in filing/listing of the matters of the respective High Courts or any District Courts in their respective States and any genuine grievance pertaining to misbehave of any member of the lower judiciary, provided such grievance must be genuine and not to keep the pressure on any judicial officer," it said.

Disposing of an application filed by the Bar Council of India (BCI), the bench directed the SC registry to send copies of its order to the registrar general of all high courts for taking necessary steps.

The BCI application was filed in the petition of the District Bar Association of Dehradun challenging the High Court order of September 25, 2019, by which it had asked the association to withdraw a strike in the district court or face contempt action.

On February 28, 2020, the apex court had dismissed the appeal of the District Bar Association of Dehradun and warned it of contempt action if it persisted with strikes. It had sought suggestions from the Bar Council of India and state bar associations on how to avoid frequent strikes in courts across the country.

The BCI then filed an application seeking appropriate direction for constitution of Grievance Redressal Committees (GRC) for a redress of grievances of advocates and bar associations at different levels. It had sought directions to all High Courts to constitute GRCs for state, district, and taluka level courts.

Senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, appearing for the BCI, submitted in order to check and control frequent strikes and boycotts, a proper forum is needed where lawyers can raise their grievances. Mishra said the BCI is of the firm view that illegal and unreasonable strikes and boycott are always bad.

"It is submitted that however, in a meeting of Chairmen/ Office Bearers of all the State Bar Councils held, the Bar Council of India and all the representatives of the lawyers were of the unanimous opinion that there should be a grievance redressal mechanism available to Advocates at all levels from the Talukas/Muffasils/District Courts, High Courts where the members of the Bar could vent their grievances," BCI said.

At the hearing yesterday, the BCI said many a time lawyers and their associations have genuine grievances and, in the absence of a mechanism for redress, they are constrained to go on strike.

Cause Title: District Bar Association Dehradun v. Ishwar Shandilya & Ors.

Click here to read/download the Order

With PTI Inputs