The Supreme Court today has criticized the lawyers in Uttarakhand for holding strike by boycotting courts and skipping work on Saturdays, citing reasons like a bomb blast in a Pakistan school, earthquake in Nepal and the death of family members of some advocates were “illegal”.
The division bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah submitted that the strike of advocates for various reasons cannot be justified as an exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
“Nobody has the right to go on strike/boycott courts. Even, such a right, if any, cannot affect the rights of others and more particularly, the right of Speedy Justice guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution,” stated the bench.
Further citing the directions in precedents case like Harish Uppal vs. Union of India, the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils were issued suo moto notices suggesting the further course of action and to give concrete suggestions to deal with the problem of strikes/abstaining the work by the lawyers. Also, it was held that the strikes by lawyers are illegal, violative of previous court orders and also amount to obstruction of access to justice.
“In spite of the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid decisions, this Court time and again deprecated the lawyers to go on strikes, the strikes were continued unabated,” asserted the bench.
The above observations were made by the SC bench while hearing an appeal filed by the District Bar Association, Dehradun challenging the judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court dated 25 September 2019, which held such strikes to be illegal and further directed action against advocates for abstaining from work on court days. It was submitted by the District Bar Association that the strike is a mode of peaceful representation to express the grievances by the lawyers’ community in the absence of another forum for the same.
The advocates in the districts of Dehradun, Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar in the State of Uttarakhand had been boycotting courts on Saturdays for the past 35 years on one pretext or the other. Further, in the four years between 2012 and 2016, advocates in the Uttarakhand capital of Dehra Dun were on strike for 455 days while those in Hardwar struck work on 515 days.
“You are doing a joke. A family member of advocate dies and the entire bar will go on strike? What is this,” criticized the Supreme Court.