According to the ethical guidelines of the legal profession, lawyers are not supposed to publicize their work, as interpreted by the Bar Council of India. Sub-section 1 (c) of section 49 of the Advocates Act 1961 has bestowed upon the Bar Council to lay down the norm according to which the lawyers are supposed to function in the practice of their profession. The council has prescribed that an advocate is not supposed to solicit work directly or indirectly even through banners, pamphlets, media or marketing sites or any other social or electronic media. Even the signboard of his name should be that of a reasonable size. The ones who refute the rules are supposed to be prosecuted under section 35 of the Advocates Act 1961.
The Bar Council had earlier notified that according to the new guidelines, advocates are not allowed to advertise for their services under any circumstance. Ever since, the lawyers have been at a receiving end, especially after the pandemic hit, due to lack of work. Therefore, the petitioners have moved to the Supreme Court to appeal for permission to allow advocated to advertise at least for those areas of practice where the availability of chances for court appearances are the least. The motive is to let the advocates take up the para-legal work so that they can earn their livelihood. The petition was being heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, N. Subhas Reddy and A.S. Bopanna on the 14th of July.
The areas sought to be allowed to advertise are:
- Tax Consultancy, PAN Card, GST registration, return filing work, etc.
- Online Registration of various entities and online legal formalities like filing of statutory forms.
- Property Documentation, Conveyance, Company formation, minute book writing, etc
- Loan appraisal and approval, Credit Rating, Passport and Immigration Service
- Co-Operative society management, Deeds and documentation.
These are the areas where the practitioners have to face tough competition from Chartered Accountants and Taxation experts. These professionals have been using the media to advertise and market their services which are causing commercial losses to the Advocates and lowering the prestige of the profession.
As pointed out by advocate Anil Kumar, in the petition, the Bar council has not replied despite several applications by the legal practitioners who have been affected by the said guideline. The order issued, not only gives extra benefit to several unorganised sectors but also adversely affects society. The newly graduated lawyers who do not have prior connections or any legal background find it extremely difficult to function if they are not allowed to notify people about their work. This also deprives the probable clients of getting a basic amount of valid information about the council to whom they take their case. Therefore, the petition lodged should be considered on a primary basis not only for the sake of the pandemic situation and the utter joblessness that it is followed by but also the overall scenario of the practising lawyers.