The High Court of Punjab and Haryana has set aside a resolution passed by the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana according to which a lawyer’s right to practice was suspended after he had allegedly posted ‘derogatory comments’ on Facebook about the judiciary and fellow advocates.
As per the ruling, the BCI rules and the Advocates Act does not bestow power on a State Bar Council to revoke or suspend an Advocate’s license in cases where the matter was referred to a disciplinary committee.
In the instant case, disciplinary proceedings against the Advocate in question were pending before the disciplinary committee.
In this case, suo moto cognisance was taken by the State Bar Council over certain comments that Advocate Vijay Bharat Verma had made on Facebook.
Accordingly, the Advocate was served with a show-cause notice via speed post and over Whatsapp.
After the lawyer failed to respond to the show-cause notice, a Resolution was passed against him wherein his license was suspended, and the matter was referred to a disciplinary committee.
Aggrieved, the Advocate moved the High Court.
Observations of the Court:
The Court described the suspension order as a ‘death knell’ and at present, puts a blot on the lawyer.
Hon’ble Court also referred to the Bar Council Act and rules and observed that as per the provisions of the Act, the Bar Council did not have the power to suspend the license of Advocates, and only the Disciplinary Committee had the power to take such a step.
The Court also disagreed with the judgment of the Madras High Court in K Sathyabal vs Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry & Ors where it was held that since a disciplinary committee was the creature of State Bar Council, whatever powers the disciplinary committee possessed, the State Bar Council had the same powers.
It was further observed that it was a well-settled law that a body that is created by statute, always conformed to the provisions of the regulating statute.
However, the Court did not clarify whether social media posts can be described as misconduct but ruled that the State Bar Council could initiate fresh proceedings against the lawyer.
Title: Vijay Bharat Verma vs the State of Punjab
Case No.:CWP-13235-2020 (O&M)
Date Of Order:23.11.2020
Coram: Hon’ble Justice: Alka Sarin