The Supreme Court on Friday (February 28) held as illegal the strike called by lawyers on every Saturday for the past 35 years in three district courts of Uttarakhand.
A bench headed by justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah said the strike called by lawyers on flimsy grounds is tantamount to contempt. The court issued notices to the Bar Council of India and state Bar Council seeking their response.
The apex court had on February 21 rapped the lawyers for resorting to such a “joke” and holding strikes for “flimsy reasons”, like bomb blast in a Pakistan school and earthquake in Nepal, on all working Saturdays for more than the past 35 years.
The issue came to the notice of the apex court while it was hearing an appeal against the verdict of the Uttarakhand High Court which had held as “illegal” the strikes or boycotts of court work on all Saturdays by lawyers in Dehradun and in several parts of Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar.
The top court had called it a fit case to initiate suo motu contempt and said the high courts order was justified.
In its September 25, 2019 verdict, the high court had referred to the 266th report of the Law Commission, which had analysed data on loss of working days on account of strikes by lawyers and had opined that it affects functioning of courts and contributes to the mounting pendency of cases.
As per information sent by the high court to the Law Commission with respect to Uttarakhand for 2012-2016, advocates were on strike for 455 days during this period in Dehradun district, followed by 515 days in Haridwar district.
Referring to the Law Commissions report, the high court had noted that strikes by advocates or their abstinence from courts varied from local, national to international issues, having no relevance to the working of the courts, and were seldom for justifiable reasons.
“To mention a few, bomb blast in a Pakistan school, amendments to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, inter-state river water disputes, attack on/murder of an advocate, earthquake in Nepal, condoling the death of near relatives of advocates, expressing solidarity to advocates of other state bar associations, moral support to movements by social activists, heavy rains…. and even for kavi-sammelans,” the high court had noted in its verdict.
In its verdict, the high court had noted that “genesis of this peculiar form” of protest of boycotting work on Saturdays for over 35 years was traceable to western Uttar Pradesh, of which the aforesaid districts formed part of, before the state of Uttarakhand was created on November 9, 2000.
It had noted that advocates from western Uttar Pradesh have been on strike on all Saturdays for the past three and half decades in pursuit of their demand that a high court bench be established in the region.