HC Seeks Centre, Delhi Govt Stand on Lawyers’ Plea for Protection, Safe Atmosphere to Practice

 The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre and the city government to state their stand on a plea by two lawyers seeking enactment of a law for protection of advocates and ensuring a safe atmosphere for legal professionals in the wake of the killing of an advocate earlier this month.

Justice Prathiba M Singh issued notice to the governments on the petition by lawyers Deepa Joseph and Alpha Phiris Dayal and also sought a status report from the Bar Council of Delhi and the coordination committee of district bar associations here, which submitted they are already in the process of drafting an “advocates protection bill” and holding consultations with public officials.

Advocate KC Mittal, who appeared for the Bar Council of Delhi, said the council, along with the coordination committee, was preparing the draft bill, which would be ready shortly. The lawyer said meetings have already been held with the chief minister and the lieutenant governor.

Advocate Robin Raju, representing the petitioners, said while the efforts of the bar bodies were laudable, it was essential to call for the stand of the central and the Delhi governments on the issue.

He also informed that Rajasthan has already enacted a law for protection of advocates.

“Let a status report be placed by respondents 3 and 4 (Bar Council of Delhi and coordination committee). Issue notice to respondents 1 and 2 (Centre and Delhi government). Let respondents 1 and 2 also place their stand in this regard within four weeks,” Justice Singh said and listed the case for further hearing on May 25.

Advocate Virender Kumar Narwal, 53, was shot dead in southwest Delhi’s Dwarka by two motorcycle-borne assailants on April 1.

In their plea, the petitioners have said there has been an “alarming rise” in incidents of violence inside the court premises in the city and it was “high time now” for a decision to be taken for the enactment of “Advocates Protection Act” to guarantee protection to the fraternity and help remove the fear that has been embedded in their minds.

The petitioners have stated their concern about their own safety has been “aggravated by seeing the visuals and video of the cold-blooded murder of an influential and senior member of the Bar”, and if “Advocates Protection Act” is not passed in Delhi, the audacity of criminals to commit crimes against lawyers will increase.

“The scenario particularly post the death of Advocate Virender Narwal has created an atmosphere that does not feel favourable to practise the profession without fear and hence it impinges upon the right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business to all citizens under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India and also violates Article 21 of the constitution that guarantees protection of life and personal liberty,” the petition said.

The petition has said Rajasthan has already passed a law which provides for police protection to any lawyer who is attacked or against whom criminal force and criminal intimidation is used while prescribing a punishment for the offender.

It said advocacy is considered a noble profession which also involves risks and threats and a safe atmosphere is essential for practising the legal profession without fear.

“The Petitioners are constrained to move this Hon’ble Court as they have felt a sense of despair among fellow members of the Bar as well..The murder of Late Sh. Virender Narwal has compelled the Petitioners to think about their own safety,” the plea has said.

“Only an Act that guarantees protection to the fraternity of lawyers practising in Delhi will help remove the sense of fear that has embedded in the minds, particularly among young first-generation lawyers like the Petitioners herein due to the repeated acts of firing inside court premises and altercations to state the least,” the plea has said.

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