Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lawyers' absenteeism in courts

In a part-hilarious piece, M.J.Antony pleads for safeguards in defence of the litigant in the context of rampant absenteeism by the lawyers. He says: "The remedy in the Civil Procedure Code and the relief granted by the Supreme Court do not totally tackle the problem of absenteeism. Lawyers know very well that the courts would not dismiss the case on merits — but only for default — and therefore are emboldened to absent themselves. The court may make some harsh observations against the counsel involved but since it has to do justice and hear the litigant in any case, the lawyers can act with impunity. The worst that can happen is an order of compensation to the opposite party for travelling to the court in vain.

"The bar councils disregard this problem faced by the litigants, though it is a matter of professional indiscipline. When a lawyer reported sick in one Delhi court last week and was found on his legs in another, it was the court which penalised him. The councils are equivocal even when the bar goes on illegal strikes or prohibits the members from defending persons accused of grave charges.

Perhaps the only speedy remedy available for a disgruntled litigant is to approach a consumer forum alleging deficiency in service and unfair trade practice. But then it would be as difficult to find a lawyer to argue against another, as it would be to find a doctor to be witness against another in a medical negligence case."
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