The Madras High Court has suspended the guidelines which it had framed last month with the aim of weeding out fraudulent lawyers.
The order has been suspended by Justice S. Vaidyanathan till 22 January, when the proposal to recall the order will also be examined. The suspension order, issued on the last working day before the Court closed for the break, directed:
“As members of various Bar Associations sought time to come up with suggestions to weed out fake practicing lawyers and that they have agreed to abide by the following conditions (which shall take effect from 02.01.2018) till the issue is resolved, without going into the aspect of 362 Cr.P.C. for the present, the order dated 21.11.2017 passed in Crl.O.P.No.21454 of 2016 is suspended till 22.01.2018
Whether the contention of Mr. P.V.S. Giridhar, learned counsel for the petitioner with regard to recalling the order dated 21.11.2017 passed in Crl.O.P.No.21454 of 2016, is justified or not will be considered after Pongal Holidays. List this matter on 22.01.2018. This Court hopes that the Bar members will come up with effective suggestions, without prolonging the matter further.”
Meanwhile, the following verification guidelines will come into effect from 2 January, 2018:
“(i) Vakalath/Memo of Appearance shall be filed along with clear photo Identity Cards of the Advocates-on-record; Advocates, who do not have photo Identity Cards, shall obtain the same from the Bar Council, without which, it shall not be entertained (This condition pertains only to those Vakalats filed from 02.01.2018);
(ii) Attesting Advocates shall also file proof of Identity Card to enable the Advocate-on-record to file it along with their Vakalat/Memo of Appearance;
(iii) In addition to the residential address, it is open to the Advocates-on-record as well as the Attesting Advocates to furnish their office address;
(iv) Petitions in Criminal cases can be filed in the form of a petition;
(v) All the Petitions filed before the Criminal Court shall be duly signed by the Advocate-on-record, on all pages together with Enrolment Number; Courts below are entitled to cross-check the proof produced, if they suspect the same.
(vi) Whenever the Identity Card is demanded for verification by any Court/Registry, the same shall be produced by the Advocates.“
The Court further clarified that if any litigant does not wish to continue with his counsel, the litigant shall immediately be handed over the case bundle without insisting on payment for return of bundle.
Besides, the Court also agreed to hear the representations made by various Advocates’ Associations, directing the Registrar General of the Court to issue a fresh Circular to all such Associations in the State, in order to enable them to appear before the Court on 22 January.
The guidelines
In line with its efforts to weed out fake lawyers or goondas and black and white with law degrees from letter pad colleges, the Court had laid down procedures to be followed for filing vakalat. These procedures were to be followed for filing cases before all Courts/ Tribunals in Tamil Nadu.
The Vaidyanathan had then ruled that “all Courts/Tribunals in Tamil Nadu shall have the power to demand the Identity Card/Enrolment Certificate/Address proof of an Advocate, if it has doubt and even direct them to produce copies of the same and refer it to the respective Bar Council for verification and if required, for necessary action”.
While the matter concerned anticipatory bail in a divorce case, the Court had noted that the Respondents had successfully suppressed material facts concerning the pendency of multiple anticipatory bail applications by frequently changing counsel. Besides, the enrolment number rendered by an Advocate who had represented the Respondents was false. Taking a stern view of the situation, the Court had then laid down the guidelines.
Soon after, several lawyers’ representatives had requested the Court to consider recalling the order, asserting that the such directives should not be issued on the judicial side. The Court had, however, declined to recall the order, primarily in view of the bar laid down in Section 362 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Thereafter, a circular was issued by the Court in view of the order.