The Biggest Threat to the Profession of Advocacy is from [Some] Advocates

The Biggest Threat to the Profession of Advocacy is from [Some] Advocates

Originally published on my old blog.

Among different forms of law practice, litigation is the most thrilling one. To borrow the words of the late G. E. Vahanvati and paraphrase, “every time you appear in court gets you high”. But, litigation, along with the insatiable thrill, offers the advocate a huge platter of challenges.

Hardly a day goes by in the life of the rookie advocate without his or her father holding up the job classifieds newspaper and reading the notice for vacancies for a legal officer in a government corporation or the examination date for the post of the most attractive legal job on Indian matrimonial classifieds: the Munsiff/Magistrate.

Add to this hurdle, the attitude of other advocates, and also that rare breed of lawyers called judges.

The senior (experienced) advocate, if he or she is a parent, draws the same card in the face of the young advocate; the never-ending advice of seeking greener pastures. “You could have gotten a better job!” “The notice for the MunMag exam is out!” “They are calling 42 APPs this time!” “Aren’t you interested in Civil Service?” “You should pursue an LLM and write the Asst. Lecture exam!” “SBI has 258 vacancies for POs.”

Aargh!

Where do you expect comfort when you can’t find it at home? With friends? Then, in the case of advocates, they shouldn’t have friends in the Bar. For, beware young advocate friend! The Bar offers little encouragement in this profession.

What do you do when life throws you lemons? Well, you can’t make lemonade here, because the tumbler, the sugar and the water are with your State Bar Council and the Bar Council of India and different chambers of Lawyer Undivided Families.

Then, there is the AoR system.

Advocate on Record (~ Advocate on Rent): Before I start dissing on AoRs may I say that some AoRs deserve respect. I know some of them personally. My anger is only directed against the rest of them; well, most of them. Why? Article 32 of the Constitution of India enables any person to move the Supreme Court, as a right in itself, to enforce the infringement of a fundamental right guaranteed in Part III within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, i.e., anywhere in India. And because of the AoR system (Rule 5, Order IV, Supreme Court Rules 2013), that person can only hire a Delhi-based lawyer to move the Supreme Court! Need I say more of the injustice?

And most of those lawyers might not have a grasp of the issue because it would have been fought in the lower courts by a local attorney. So, the litigant and the [katta] local attorney have to draft the petition at home and hire the Dilli wala AoR to lend his signature and seal so that the registry would send it to the bench. Thus, the AoR becomes an Advocate on Rent.

Some may argue that having the AoR system would increase the quality of drafting and the petitions that are filed in the Supreme Court. My foot! Quality petitions? Cough, M. L. Sharma!, cough! Also, think of some of the recent petitions that have been filed in the Supreme Court such as the one seeking deletion of the words secular and socialist from the Constitution. The AoR system is a fad!

I was told recently that the Kerala Bar Council is planning to adopt a similar system. Woe unto them! The AoR system is only an attempt to monopolise the legal profession by a few; nothing else. There are non-AoR advocates out there whose drafting and arguing skills would make even some senior advocates run for their money. And since they have a lot of money, they will have to run a lot!

And how do you become an AoR if you want to become one? As I said, you need to have a Delhi office; a registered clerk; and training for one year under another AoR which brings up another long-debated issue: remuneration. The compensation paid by AoRs to their associates is insufficient to buy peanuts! I do not say that every AoR falls into this basket, but most of them do not share their baskets’ contents with their associates.

There are many more issues, as I said, to lament about regarding the legal profession. For example, executive-run Tribunals; stubborn and harassing judges; bad judges; angry and patronising judges; distrust by the general public etc. Add to this, we have the Covid19 pandemic that has resulted in poverty for the majority of lawyers invisible to the Bench; further strengthened ‘seniors’ to do away with juniors; and adoption of some weird form of e-courts.

All of this, brought on by your faithful, your brethren.