Recently, the Advocate (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which aims at regulating the legal profession was passed by the Rajya Sabha. In this article, let us look at the amendment and its aim and object.
The Advocate (Amendment) Bill, of 2023 was passed to regulate the legal profession through a single Act called the Advocates Act, 1961, as per the statement of objects and reasons of the legislation. The Central Government in consultation with the Bar Council of India had decided to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, and incorporated Section 36 (Power to frame and publish lists of touts) of the Legal Practitioners Act into the Advocates Act, 1961.
What is Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879?
The Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879 was enacted to amend and consolidate the laws about legal practitioners. It states that an advocate on enrolled with any High Court can practice in any subordinate court. It also empowers the High Court with the power to make rules about the suspension and dismissal of mukhtars, pleaders, or revenue agents.
What is the Advocates Act, of 1961?
The Advocates Act, of 1961 replaced the Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879. The Advocate Act, 1961 (“Act”) brings together under a single unit the law related to legal practitioners and provide for the establishment of State Bar Councils and All-India Bar Council. It also requires Indian law graduates to enroll themselves as an advocate in the Bar Council of their respective states.
The Act also grants every advocate the right to practice in any court in India. It further states that, if any advocate is engaged in any misconduct then their license will be suspended under Section 35-A
Moreover, if any advocate is engaged in any unlawful practice or is an offender then such an advocate will not be given a license to practice under Section 24-A
It also states that if any advocate cheats their client then such client can file a complaint against the advocate before the State Bar Council so that disciplinary action can be taken against such advocate.
The Act lays down the standard of professional conduct that an advocate must maintain. It requires the advocate to maintain the dignity of the profession and not engage in any unethical conduct that may compromise their professional integrity.
The Act also ensures that the advocates are accountable and protects individuals from incompetent or unethical conduct of advocates.
Having looked into the Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879, and the Advocates Act, of 1961 let us look at the amendment to the Advocates Act.
The Key feature of the Advocate (Amendment) Bill, 2023 are –
Every High Court, District Judge, District Magistrate, Session Judge, and Revenue Officer (not below the rank of a district collector) can make and publish lists of touts.
“Touts” means a person who – a) proposes or procures employment of a legal practitioner (get clients) in a legal business in return for any payment, or b) frequently visits places such as railway stations, revenue offices, or civil or criminal courts, to get clients or procure employment.
In simple words “tout” is a person, who instigates or induces, any part of a court’s matter/complaint/ case to engage a specific lawyer for conducting the said matter/complaint/case in the court. Such tout also decides the fees of that lawyer and gets a share from the said lawyer’s fee.
Any person whose name is recorded in the list of touts may be excluded from the Court premises by the Court or judge.
Preparation of list –
A list of person suspected to be touts are made and published by the authorities; who then orders the Sub-ordinate courts to investigate the conduct or behaviour of the people suspected or alleged to be touts. Once that person is proven to be a tout, the authorities will add that person’s name to the list of touts. However, the person listed as touts should be allowed to show cause as to why their names should not be included.
If a person’s name is given in the list of touts and that person acts as a tout then such person will be punished with up to 3 years of imprisonment and/or fine of up to Rs 500.
The Rajya Sabha had approved the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which aims at combating touts and thereby regulating the legal professions through a unified or single Act. As per the Bill, every High Court, district judge, magistrate, session judge, and revenue officer are allowed to issue and publish a list of touts. Touts are people who seek to get or actually obtain a job for a legal practitioner in exchange of any payment in a legal company and often visit places in search of employment. Any person whose name is listed in the list of touts is barred from entering the court premises by the judges or court. A tout will be punished with 3 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs 500.