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12 July 2012

Indian lawyers strike over legal education reforms

Lawyers in India threw a two-day strike this week, disrupting judicial activities at the high court as well as several lower courts, as they protested against proposed reforms to legal education in the country.

India: tussle between Bar Council and government

The strike was called by the Bar Council of India (BCI) over the Higher Education and Research Bill, which seeks to regulate India’s legal education system, encroaching on the prominent role that the BCI has traditionally played in its administration.
Lawyer PK Mishra told The Times of India that ‘by introducing the Higher Education and Research Bill, the government is trying to make the Bar Council of India defunct.’


The council itself agrees, with its chairman, Gopal Mohanty, arguing that the bill is ‘undemocratic’, and alleging that the government is attempting to snatch control of the legal profession from lawyers.
Protestors gathered outside the court, holding placards and an effigy of Kapil Sibal, the minister behind the Bill, was burned.
But questions over the legality of the strike have been raised. Ahmad Abdi, writing in DNA India, claimed that while the BCI’s concern regarding the bill ‘may be genuine ... the question is whether it is legal and proper of lawyers to go on strike’.
Mr Abdi went on to debate the ethics of professionals such as lawyers and doctors striking, whatever the cause, given the impact of their actions on the public. Pointing to several rulings by India’s Supreme Court that declared it illegal for lawyers to strike, he concluded that through this protest, the BCI ‘is setting a wrong precedence’.

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