A committee of seven members was constituted by BCI, after receiving reports from different parts of the country about attacks on lawyers. On 2 July, 2021, a draft on Advocate Protection Bill, 2021 was issued by BCI. The aim of Advocate Protection Bill is to ensure adequate protection to lawyers and removal of hurdles faced lawyers by them while performing their duties. The bill ensures greater protection of advocates and their family while discharging their professional duties.
OBJECT OF THE BILL
The preamble states that Bill is for the protection of Advocates. The sudden spike in the incidents of assault, kidnappings, intimidations and regular threats faced by advocates is a major reason for drafting this bill. This Act also ensures basic necessities and social security to Advocates.
The bill consists of 16 sections. They are as follows :
Section 2 – Definition of ‘Advocate’ – An “ advocate” means an advocate entered in any roll under the provisions of The Advocate Act , 1961.
‘Act of Violence’ It includes all such acts committed against the advocates with an intent to prejudice or derail theprocess of impartial, fair, and fearless litigation. These ‘acts’ could be of threat, harassment, coercion, assault, malicious prosecution, criminal force, harm, hurt, injury, etc. that potentially impact the living and working conditions of advocates. This also includes loss or damage of property. These offenses are to be cognizable and non-bailable.
Section 3 and 4 – Punishment and Compensation – Punishment from 6 months and extend up to 5 years, a maximum of ten years for subsequent offences. Fines from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh for the first offence, while fines for subsequent offences can reach Rs.10 Lakhs . The bill also gives the court the authority to compensate advocates for wrongs done to them.
Investigation by officer
In certain offences no one below the superintendent of policy conducts an inquiry and investigation should be completed within 30 days of FIR . The bill also suggests that advocates have the right to police protection if the court conducts a thorough investigation.
No legal action should be brought against a lawyer who has been acting in good faith.
The advocates’ and their clients’ communications must be respected, and the clients’ privacy must be maintained.
Section 11 – No Police Officer shall arrest an Advocate and/or investigate a case against an Advocate without the specific order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
If the CJM determines that the FIR was brought against the Advocate for malicious reasons arising from the discharge of the Advocate’s professional duties, the CJM will grant bail to the Advocate.
It also includes significant provision for social security. During unforeseen emergency such as calamities, the act proposes that the state and federal governments establish measures to provide financial help to all needy Advocates in the country. Every month, a minimum of Rs.15,000 must be provided to practicing lawyers .
Section 12 : Protection from illegal arrest
Under criminal procedure court if any Public servant with investigative or arrest power is found in possession of or using in his investigation any privileged communication or material that can be shown to have been obtained from an Advocate, it is presumed that such privileged communication or material was obtained by coercion.