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What You Need to Know About the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023?



The legal profession in India is governed by various laws and regulations, such as the Advocates Act, of 1961, the Bar Council of India Rules, the Indian Penal Code, and the Code of Civil Procedure. However, some of these laws are outdated and redundant and need to be repealed or amended to suit the changing needs and expectations of the legal profession and society.

One such law is the Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879, which was enacted during British colonial rule and deals with the regulation and discipline of legal practitioners, such as advocates, vakils, attorneys, and pleaders. The Act also contains provisions related to touts, who are persons who solicit or procure the employment of legal practitioners in return for payment or other benefits.


The succession and evolution of the Bill

The Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879, has become obsolete and irrelevant, as most of its provisions have been superseded or repealed by the Advocates Act, of 1961, which is the comprehensive and consolidated law that regulates the legal profession in India. The Advocates Act, of 1961, established the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils, which are the statutory bodies that enroll, regulate, and discipline advocates. The Advocates Act, of 1961, also defines the rights, duties, and privileges of advocates, and lays down the standards of professional conduct and etiquette for them.


However, the Advocates Act, of 1961, does not contain any provision related to touts, which are still a menace and a nuisance in the legal profession and society. Touts are persons who frequent places such as courts, revenue offices, or railway stations, and offer to procure the services of legal practitioners for clients, in exchange for money or other benefits. Touts not only exploit and deceive the clients but also undermine and tarnish the reputation and dignity of the legal profession.


Therefore, there is a need to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879, and incorporate its provisions related to touts into the Advocates Act, of 1961, to streamline and simplify the legal framework governing the legal profession, and to curb and prevent the malpractice of touting.


To achieve this objective, the Central Government has introduced the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023, in the Parliament, to amend the Advocates Act, 1961. The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by the Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Law and Justice, Arjun Ram Meghwal, on August 1, 2023, and was passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 3, 2023. The Bill was then passed by the Lok Sabha on August 9, 2023, and is awaiting the assent of the President of India.


The key features of the Bill are as follows:

  • The Bill repeals the Legal Practitioners Act, of 1879, in its entirety, except for Section 36, which deals with the power to frame and publish lists of touts in courts.

  • The Bill inserts a new section, Section 45A, in the Advocates Act, 1961, which incorporates the provisions of Section 36 of the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, with some modifications and additions.

  • The Bill empowers every High Court, District Judge, Sessions Judge, District Magistrate, and every Revenue Officer, not being below the rank of a Collector of a district, to frame and publish lists of persons who are proved to be touts, and to exclude them from the precincts of the courts.

  • The Bill defines a tout as a person who either proposes to procure or procures the employment of a legal practitioner in a legal business in return of any payment, or frequents places such as the precincts of civil or criminal courts, revenue offices, or railway stations to procure such employment.

  • The Bill provides that no person’s name shall be included in the list of touts until he has been allowed to show cause against such inclusion.

  • The Bill also provides that any person who acts as a tout while his name is included in the list of touts shall be punishable with imprisonment up to three months, a fine up to Rs 500, or both.

The Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023, is a welcome and timely step to repeal an archaic and redundant law, to amend a modern and relevant law, to ensure the regulation and discipline of the legal profession, and to protect the interests and rights of the clients and the society. The Bill is also expected to enhance the quality and credibility of the legal profession and to uphold its dignity and integrity. The Bill is a part of the Central Government’s endeavour to repeal “all obsolete laws or pre-independence Acts” that have lost their utility and to simplify and rationalize the legal system in India.


 

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