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Nationwide lawyers' strike badly hits court proceedings

Wednesday July 11, 2012 08:29:04 PM, IANS

New Delhi: Work in courts across the country was badly affected Wednesday as around 17 lakh lawyers joined a two-day strike called by the Bar Council of India (BCI) to protest a proposed legislation that could affect its autonomy and allow entry of foreign law institutes and universities in India.

The strike called Wednesday and Thursday is to protest four proposed legislations, including the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010

The strike was "successful", advocate Vijay Bhatt, associate managing trustee of the BCI, told IANS.

"Judicial proceedings across the country were affected due to the nation-wide lawyers strike," Bhatt said.

In the national capital, over 40,000 lawyers joined the strike, paralyzing the functioning of six district courts in Delhi.

Around 50,000 cases were affected by the strike, said R.N. Vats, chairman of the Delhi District Courts Bar Association Co-ordination Committee and president of the Delhi Bar Association.

However, the Delhi High Court Bar Association did not observe the strike Wednesday. The association president, Amarjit Singh Chandhiok, told IANS that they would observe the strike Thursday.

The lawyers strike badly hit work in all the higher and lower courts across Maharashtra and Goa which wore a deserted look Wednesday with around 1.4 lakh lawyers joining the strike.

Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa (BCMG) vice president Ashish P. Deshmukh said the response to the strike in the Maharashtra and Goa was "100 percent".

Deshmukh told IANS that lawyers plan to make a bonfire of copies of the Higher Education & Research Bill, 2011, outside the Bombay High Court to register their protest.

The bill will lead to privatization and commercialization of law education in the country, and will curtail the power of the BCI, which is the authority to grant accreditation to law colleges, said Vats.

Work in courts all across the northeastern states was total and successful, Gauhati High Court Bar Association president Pijush Biswas told reporters in Agartala:

Reports from various northeastern states said the strike crippled functioning of lower and district courts besides the Sikkim and Gauhati High Court principal and state level benches in various northeastern states.

Gauhati High Court Bar Association secretary Arindam Lodh said the bills proposed to be introduced were "against the federal structure of the country and all educational institutions were sought to be regulated by a few nominees of the union human resources development ministry".

"Foreign law colleges, foreign solicitor firms and lawyers from other countries would be allowed to work in India if these legislations are passed in the parliament," he said.

The three other bills proposed by the union government and objected to by the lawyers are the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011, the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulations of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, and the National Law School Bill, 2011.

Deshmukh said the government aimed to pass the bills in the ensuing monsoon session of parliament. "The BCMG believes it would act as a hindrance for the country's higher education sector, including law education, and we are vehemently opposing it," Deshmukh told IANS.

He said once foreign universities enter the country, they would act independently and have their own syllabus different from Indian standards, which could create problems.

Deshmukh said the proposed bill would also alter the Advocates Act, 1961, rendering all national, state and local bar councils ineffective.

"In an independent country, it is necessary to have an independent bar and independent judiciary. This independence would be curbed with the proposed bills and badly hit law students and practitioners," Deshmukh said.

He said the BCMG had appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and others not to pass the bills in their present form.

Deshmukh said unless the government heeded the legal community, lawyers all over the country would launch a "jail bharo" agitation.




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