On 2nd July 2021, the Bar Council of India issued the Draft of the Advocates Protection Bill 2021. A committee consisting of seven members had been established to formulate the law bearing in mind the issue and hardships experienced by advocates and their families.
OBJECTIVE OF THE BILL
It is stated in the preamble that the Bill protects lawyers and their obligations in the area of work. It then outlines 9 aspects of the goals and the justifications behind the proposal. The primary grounds for the bill are the protection of the lawyers and the removal of obstacles in their performance. There are several factors in the bill that impede the exercise of responsibilities.
The bill also implemented the 8th Congress of the United Nations on Crime Prevention and Offender Treatment (1990), which India was one of its members. The 'Basic Principles on the Roles of Lawyers' were also approved in this conference. There are sections in this statement which guarantee that practicing of the lawyers. It tried to ensure that governments safeguard attorneys and they are able to fulfil their obligations. A key factor is the recent surge in attacks, abductions, intimidation and constant threats against lawyers. In case of a threat to the security of attorneys due to their duty, the authorities should appropriately protect them. Such an Act is required to protect advocates. It also argues that social security must be ensured and minimum necessity for life for advocates.
VIOLENT ACTS AS DEFINED IN THE BILL
A total of 16 sections are included in the proposed law in accordance with its goals. The definition of 'advocate' in accordance with section 2 of the bill must be the same as in 1961 of the Advocates Act. "advocate" is a lawyer in any role as provided by the Act. The lawyer is not an advocate. In these same section 'acts of violence' is defined. These encompass any activities against advocates aimed at unbiased, fair and courageous litigation or to undermine the process. This "act" might have a possible influence on the living and working conditions of advocates: threats, harassment, forceful attack, malicious prosecutions, criminal force, harm, hurts and other damages etc. The loss or damage to property is also included. These crimes are also cognizable and non-bailable.
PUNISHMENT AND COMPENSATION
The penalty and indemnification sections 3 and 4 are discussed. Criminal charges may be sentenced from six months and which may be extended up to five years. Penalties start at Rs.50,000 and rise to Rs. 1 lakh; fines may rise to Rs. 10 lakhs for repetitive crimes. The Bill also authorizes the Court to compensate advocates for the wrongs they have suffered.
INVESTIGATION BY OFFICER ABOVE THE RANK OF DSP
The bill provides that no individual under the level of Police Superintendent should carry out an inquiry in certain offences and must finish this investigation in 30-day time after the FIR has been registered. The law also recommends that advocates be entitled to police protection when properly investigated by the court.
The second major element of the bill is that a redressal committee should be set up. At each level (e.g. District, High Court and Supreme Court), a three-member Committee was established to address grievances by lawyers and bar associations. The Head of the Committee shall be the Head of the Level Judiciary, as District Judge, Chiefs of Justice, High Court candidates or CJI, or Supreme Court appointees. The other two members shall be nominated by the respective Bar Councils. The other members shall be named. At the sessions of the redressal committee, the president of the Bar Council must be the special guest.
PROTECTION AGAINST SUITS, ARRESTS AND PROSECUTION
A lawyer who has worked in good faith is not to be charged. Communications should be respected between advocates and their clients; confidentiality shall be preserved. Section 11 stipulates that without a particular order from the Chief Judicial Magistrate, no police officer shall arrest the lawyer and/or investigate an advocate case. If information is supplied to the officer-in-charge of a Police Station for commission of any offence committed by an advocate, the police officer enters or causes the substance of the information with a book which is to be maintained by the officer and refers the information to the nearest chief judicial officer, which conducts a preliminary inquiry into the case and the Chief Judicial Magistrate concerned shall issue notice to the advocate and give him the opportunity of being heard or to his counsel or representative. If the chief finds out that the said application has been filled because of some hatred or malicious reasons then in that case the advocate will be granted the bail.
The Act contains a major provision related to social security. The Act provides that State and Central Government should provide funding for all the country's Advocates who are in need in the event of natural catastrophes or epidemics, in unanticipated scenarios. At least Rs.15,000 should be provided each month.
PRESUMPTION AS TO COERCION IN CASE PUBLIC SERVANT OBTAINING PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION FROM LEGAL PRACTITIONER
Section 12 provides that where any public servant with the powers of investigation or arrest under CrPC has any privileged communication or material that can be shown by being obtained by an Advocate in possession, or is found to be useful in his investigation, it shall be assumed to have been obtained through coercion from such a public servant.
The Bill elaborates on recent incidents of assault, criminal force, intimidation, and threats directed at Advocates while they perform their professional duties, which have resulted in law and order situations and inadequacies in the provision of professional services by Advocates to their clients, in addition to instilling a deep sense of fear in the minds of Advocates. Several other grounds for introducing this Bill include the danger of malicious and frivolous prosecution by opposing parties, which is also meant to meddle with the execution of their duties, therefore interfering with the administration of justice itself. Another difficulty that Advocates confront is that they represent detainees, imprisoned or detained people. Advocates are questioned about privileged conversations with their clients in order to aid in the investigation of alleged wrongdoing. All the above situations faced by the advocates shall be resolved after the bill.