Published on: August 05,2021 11:20 IST
By Aashima Kakkar
Article 32 and Article 226 of the Constitution of India provide that the judiciary is the material for redress in the country. The Supreme Court and the High Court are empowered to take actions to enforce these rights. It is the constitutional mandate for the judiciary to protect the rights of the citizens.
The irony is that while the judiciary protects the citizens and administers justice to the citizens, there is also a looming threat to the judicial officers in the country.
Independence of the judiciary is a vital part of the basic structure doctrine of the Indian Constitution. The judges in the country take big decisions that require them to act fearlessly and in an unbiased fashion.
An independent justice system that is free from any pressure, bias or intimidations is the cornerstone of any Constitutional democracy.
In recent times, news about judicial officers such as lawyers, judges and officers of the court being harassed, blackmailed, threatened and even killed have been making the headlines.
Under these circumstances, there is an essential need to protect the officers of the court so that they can perform their duties to the judiciary with due diligence.
A Universal phenomenon
In the last decade, violence and attacks against judges has been a universal problem that has taken place in several countries. These attacks are usually made by politicians and influential people.
In recent times, these attacks have also taken place by the media, public commentators, litigants as well as other members of the legal fraternity.
The Unites States of America have the highest number of judicial attacks in the world. Despite being a developed country, the attacks on judicial officers has constantly been on the rise.
Apart from direct physical attacks on the members of their judicial system, the US has also witnessed judges that have had to retire or leave their position under political pressure.
These attacks, verbal and physical have also extended beyond members of the judicial system in Australia where even a law student was verbally attacked. Australia has also witnesses several verbal attacks on retired judges and legal academicians.
The Chief Justice of Australia decided to stand up for the members of their legal fraternity and wrote to the Acting Prime Minister at the time.
The letter promptly caught the attention of journalists in the country and was given widespread publicity. Australia, like other countries is concerned that the unrelenting barrage of criticism and denigration would, if unabated, undermine the community’s confidence in the courts and its decisions. In the past, the judicial system in Australia had been so well reputed that even the important and controversial judgements of the court were accepted by the country without any conflict.
The Judicial Officers Protection Act, 1950
The Judicial Officers Protection Act was laid down with the motive to confer protection on the people who perform judicial functions and also protects the people executing decrees and orders that have been passed by the judiciary in exercise of its functions.
Under the Act, protection is available to the judges is absolute and is available not just to a sitting judge but also a retired judge in respect of the actions taken by him or the words spoken by him while discharging his official judicial functions.
The recent case that has been making the headlines is that of the Honorable Judge Anand who was found critically injured on the morning of 28th July 2021. He had left for his morning walk when he was grievously inured by an auto rickshaw. He was then rushed to the hospital only to learn that he was already dead.
The CCTV footage showed that the rickshaw went out of its way to injure him and that it was clear that it was not just an accident. The footage then went viral on the internet as judicial officers raised questions as to their own safety.
Following this incident, a letter was sent by the Ram Sharma, Principal District and Sessions Judge, Dhanbad to the Registrar General of the Jharkhand High Court.
On the basis of the letter, the High Court then took suo motu cognizance of the incident. The State Bar Councils of Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu condemned the death of Judge Anand and the Jharkhand Council also demanded that an expeditious investigation be conducted into the same.
The Supreme Court also took suo motu cognizance and registered the case regarding the ‘safety of judges’ after the death of Judge Anand.
Protection of Advocates
The Advocates Protection Bill, 2021 was issued by the Bar Council of India on 2nd July, 2021. The major motivation of the Bill was the protection of Advocates and the removal of impediments to their performance of duties. The Bill mentions a number of factors that can hinder the execution of responsibilities by an Advocate.
The recent incidents of assaults, killings and regular threats caused to Advocates due to proper and honest discharge of their professional duties, have reached alarming heights. This has also caused obstructions and hindered lawyers in the discharge of their professional services.
These situations have caused a lot of apprehension in the minds of the Advocates whilst performing their professional duties. In order to protect Advocates from these assaults and coercion and threats, it is necessary to bring the legislation for the protection of Advocates.
The Judicial Protection Act, 1950 provides for the protection of judges but until now, there has been no legislation for the protection of advocates in the country. Therefore, the Advocates Protection Bill has been a welcome change.
The O.P. Sharma Vs High Court of Punjab and Haryana has been an important judgement in bringing about this change. In this judgement, the Supreme Court rightly held that the Advocates are officers of the court and they were an essential part of the justice system and with them the justice system will work with full potential to uphold justice and the rights of the citizens.
In another case, O.N. Mohindroo Vs The Bar Council of Delhi and Ors the Supreme Court interpreted the Advocates act and observed that the List of the Schedule VI deals with the piece of legislation which deals with persons entitled to practice before the Supreme Courts and the High Court’s apart from other courts and therefore a central enactment of such a nature needs to be put into place to ensure that Advocates can render their professional services without any fear or coercion or any other external influence for the ultimate cause of the administration of justice and Rule of Law.
Time and again there has been threats and loss of lives of professionals in the country. Unfortunately, these professionals are the upholders of the justice system and they fall victim to such unjust practices of the people.
The masses need to realize that these people are merely exercising their duties and doing their jobs to serve the people and the nation at large.
This is not just a nationwide issue but is also a global one. The Indian authorities have taken steps to ensure that the rights of the advocates and the judges in the country have been well protected but many countries have still not taken the appropriate measures against the same.
The recent death of Justice Anand has left members of the legal fraternity shook. If such a well renowned Principal Judge can lose his life while simply going for a morning walk, how can the safety of common lawyers and lower court judges not be compromised.
This is a thought that has been lingering in the minds of the members of the legal fraternity in the country. This incident has instilled fear in the minds of lawyers and young law students across the country and has even discouraged people from pursuing the profession.
Apart from a threat to the life of the lawyers and judges in the country, there have also been instances where their families and loved ones have been threated or harmed.
The new Advocates Protection Bill also seeks to provide a solution to this problem thereby also providing protection to the families of the Advocates as well.