Madhya Pradesh HC orders lawyers on strike to resume work immediately

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The Chairman of the State Bar Council of Madhya Pradesh has asked the entire lawyer community in the State of Madhya Pradesh to abstain from court work w.e.f. March 23, 2023.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Friday came down heavily on the culture of strikes by lawyers. Court said that the litigants are the ones who suffer due to such strikes and the court cannot be a mute spectator to such instances. 

The bench of Chief Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Vishal Mishra was dealing with a suo motu case taken up by the court in the wake of a three-day strike by the lawyers in the State against a scheme for disposing of pending cases.

Taking a stern view, the division bench directed all the advocates throughout the State to attend to their court work and warned that "if any lawyer deliberately avoids to attend the court, it shall be presumed that there is disobedience of the present order and he will be faced with serious consequences including initiation of proceedings for contempt of court under the Contempt of Courts Act".

Court added that if any lawyer prevents any other lawyer from attending the court work, the same would be considered as disobedience of the directions of the court and he will be faced with serious consequences including initiation of proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act.

In addition to that, court directed all the judicial officers to submit a report as to which lawyer deliberately abstains from attending the court while stating that judicial officers shall also mention the names of advocates who prevent other advocates from entering the court premises or from conducting their cases in the court.

"Such advocates shall be dealt with seriously which may even include proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act as well as being debarred from practice," Court ordered. 

The suo moto public interest litigation had been initiated as a result of the communication by the Chairman of the State Bar Council of Madhya Pradesh asking the entire lawyer community in the State of Madhya Pradesh to abstain from court work w.e.f. March 23, 2023.

The Chairman of the State Bar Council had stated that unless the scheme relating to disposal of 25 identified cases in every quarter is not withdrawn by March 22, 2023 the members of the Bar would protest the issue seriously.

The Chief Justice of the High Court, however, had replied to the Chairman of the State Bar Council stating that he and members of the Bar Council were most welcome to submit all the issues being faced so that the same can be considered and thereafter a meeting would be convened to resolve the issues.

The Chairman of the Bar Council of India had also addressed a communication on March 23, 2023 wherein it had directed the State Bar Council to take immediate steps for withdrawal of the call for strike immediately by the Bar Council as well as by the Bar Associations of the State.

Despite the abovementioned developments, on March 23, 2023, the division bench found that advocates were not present in the court as well as at its Benches at Indore and Gwalior.

Consequently, court took suo moto cognizance of the issue.

"We are extremely shocked, worried and pained about the manner in which things have unfolded," the order passed by the division bench on Friday stated. 

Court also referred to the rulings of the Supreme Court and said that the Top Court has time and again held that a call to abstain from work is illegal. "The lawyers cannot go on a strike. Even assuming it is a rarest of rare case, where it has to be resorted to, then the guidelines postulated in para 35 have to be followed," the division bench observed while opining that in the present matter, the permission of the Chief Justice should have been obtained well in advance of the strike call. 

"The duty of a lawyer is to uphold the rule of law. It is he, who fights for the legal rights of a litigant," Court said.