This article was written by Vrinda Chauhan a student of Aligarh Muslim University.
Let me first introduce the root of the debate, that is – Rule 36, Section IV of the BCI –
An advocate shall not solicit work or advertise, either directly or indirectly, whether by circulars, advertisements, touts, personal communications, interviews not warranted by personal relations, furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments or producing his photographs to be published in connection with cases in which he has been engaged or concerned. His sign-board or name-plate should be of a reasonable size. The sign-board or name-plate or stationery should not indicate that he is or has been President or Member of a Bar Council or of any Association or that he has been associated with any person or organization or with any particular cause or matter or that he specializes in any particular type of worker or that he has been a Judge or an Advocate General.
Basically Lawyers are not allowed to advertise for their services this is what the “law” says. This is the step to preserve the unique status and dignity attached to the noble profession of law, which is why there are such restrictions.
Juxtapose, in many foreign countries the lawyers are allowed to advertise, sale their services in print or through any media. The question comes in the mind that why cannot a lawyer be allowed like any other professional person to advertise? When we have the Constitution that states and provide for freedom of speech. One should be allowed to do on the grounds of the freedom available. But since it is the matter of law, it has to be followed.
Let me illustrate:-
If one was allowed to advertise and proclaim in public-“Hello I am a lawyer, will help you win the case!” or “25% off this week if you sue your neighbor” or “ free prosecution for next one, on every 1 case you file through me”, etc. such ads can solace the soul on the ground of having availed the constitutional freedom but the sanctity of law will be lost if once such practice comes to the fore-front.
On the other hand here goes the news: –
Lawyers can advertise on Internet, BCI tells The Supreme Court.
It has relaxed its rules on the issue in view of the changing global scenario. In an affidavit filed through its secretary S Radhakrishnan, the BCI submitted that it has decided to permit such advertisements. Under the amended rule, advocates can mention in their chosen websites, their names, telephone numbers, e-mail ID, professional qualification and areas of specialization. The regulatory body had earlier taken the view that unlike western countries where lawyers were permitted to advertise their services, the same cannot be permitted in India as it “cherished different ethos, social values and ethical norms.”
However as decided in the case of V.B. Joshi v. Union of India, where this amendment was made in Rule 36, Section IV, only 5 pieces of information can be advertised on the internet i.e.
(1) Name of the firm,
(2) address, telephone numbers and email id,
(3) (a) enrollment number, (b) date of enrollment, (c) name of State Bar Council where originally enrolled, (d) name of the State Bar Council on whose roll name stands currently and (e) name of the Bar Association of which the advocate is a member,
(4) Professional qualifications and academic qualifications and
(5) Areas of practice.”
Why there is a change in the BCI stand? And why the rules got amended? That was in the wake of the protest and the constant demands of the lawyers that pushed to change its stand. Are we to analyze that what is happening abroad should always be imported in the country like India? Yes we should analyze this fact.
What’s wrong when a lawyer tells the needy person that he could extend help through the court and relieve him of his problems? What’s wrong when any lawyer sets up a “Legal Aid Camp” to advise the people and if anybody wants to seek the help of the lawyer? Although in the law courses we are taught the use of “Legal Clinics” or “Legal Camps” , then why such a dubious approach of banning the same?
Let’s come to the practicality of the Rule of the BCI:
Does the BCI really feel that if a person does not tell people that he or she has been a judge or an advocate-general people will not come to know of this fact? What does it feel about the Supreme Court putting up a list of lawyers on its website and stating loudly and clearly that these people are senior advocates, and that such and such senior advocate is a retired judge, a retired chief justice, or a retired advocate general? Will such information printed on a visiting card amount to more undue publicity than if it is published on the Supreme Court website, (as it has indeed been)?
What about if some lawyer sets up a face book page, and provides only his name, phone number, educational qualifications, years of experience, and area of practice on it. Now he goes on and spends a crore rupees on a face book ad campaign to get a couple of million likes. Now he has a captive audience of about 3 to 4 lakh persons. How can the BCI stop this? Is this stoppable?
Well this step comes to cater the need of the time. As the Law is dynamic, has to change with the changing times. So this is the instance of it.
TAKING A STAND
What I perceive is that somehow the lawyers not soliciting are justified. When I say so that does not at all mean that I am favoring the curtailment of their right to freedom. The lawyers as professionals must understand and realize that they are the professionals but of law. Law comes with logic. And the logic behind the Rule 36 of BCI was that law is not any trade that has to be advertised as an essential step of the trade. As a consequence it will instigate the unnecessary competition. I am strictly against the advertisement as stated in the rule 36 Of BCI. Advertisements, that to of the services of law, has outweighed in disadvantages than its advantages which can be seen in any other trade and not in the legal discourse. The reasons of saying so are:
The advertisement of the lawyers can be misleading. It can have the undesirable economic effects. Also it can carry the adverse effects on the quality of the services. Most importantly the ethnicity of this profession will be hampered to a great.
At the same time I stand against the rule 36 when it states that – Lawyers cannot solicit by the way of personal communications. Now adding this phrase to the provision was to delimit the capacity of the lawyers and putting a stop to their ability to do for the good. Also by adding this phrase the BCI has done “good for nothing”. Why cannot a lawyer establish the personal relations and by way of it provide his/her services as a lawyer. This is so not justified.
Now how the lawyers would be able to work “pro-bono” if they desire to do so. No lawyer would be able to reach out to the rural areas and help out just because some rule of BCI has not affirmed for the personal communication of the lawyer. This is so unwarranted and that is the reason I think so the lawyers would have challenged this rule.
I agree that there must be some regulatory system of controlling the legal field being used as a means of trade. But that control should not be used as a strait-jacketed formula. Importantly there must be a genuine method or a facility for every lawyer to reach out to the people everywhere and do the necessaries thereof.
 The Economic Times, July 28,2008