Debarring Lawyers' Is Bar Function: Protesting Advocates

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New Delhi, Aug 22 (UNI) District court lawyers in the Indian Capital struck work today protesting a Delhi High Court order debarring two ''senior advocates'' guilty of conspiring to shield a hit-and-run accused, Bar spokesmen said.

The protest was not against finding two fellow advocates guilty but against their debarment-- a function that belonged in the Bar, spokesmen said in a statement.

The statement issued by a Coordination Committee of All Bar Associations of Delhi bemoaned the ''falling standards of advocates as well as judiciary.'' Around the middle of last year, senior advocates R K Anand and I U Khan, defence and prosecution counsel respectively in the BMW hit-and-run case, were claimed in a news show to have colluded to shield the accused.

A British national and son of a former Indian navy officer turned arms dealer, and grandson of former Chief of Naval Staff S M Nanda, Sanjeev Nanda is being tried in the mowing down of six people, including three policemen, in New Delhi nine years ago.

NDTV reported an attempt to manipulate witness Sunil Kulkarni's testimony through payoffs.

The allegation was denied by the two lawyers issued show cause notices by the Bar Council of Delhi, a statutory disciplinary body.

Khan was immediately dropped as Public Prosecutor in the case.

A Delhi High Court division bench-- Justices M K Sharma and Sanjeev Khanna-- took cognisance of the affair.

On Thursday, a division bench-- Justices Manmohan Sarin and Madan B Lokur-- found the two lawyers guilty of the contempt of court and debarred them from appearing in any Delhi court for the next four months.

The court fined each of them Rs 2,000 and asked the Bar Council of Delhi to look into the possibility of cancelling their licences to practise.

Council chairman K K Manan could not be reached immediately for comment.

Another office bearer said the Council had acted suo motu and issued show cause notices to the parties, whose replies and rejoinders were all in and a decision due shortly.

''The Bar Associations feel that the High Court could only impose punishment under the law and was not having jurisdictional competence to interfere in the powers vested with the Bar Council of the State, which alone can take away the licence of practice of an advocate for misconduct,'' the Committee statement said.

The 4-page statement signed by advocates Mahesh Sharma, Jaiveer Singh Chauhan and Rajiv Khosla recited failures of the justice system including: -- Massive corruption by kith and kin of ''several judges'' who take 'hefty amount' for getting favourable orders from courts; -- Judges' reluctance to disclose their assets or subject themselves to the citizens' right to information; -- The failure to register an FIR ''under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the former Chief Justice of India.'' UNI MJ GL BD2252

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