student research panel, constituted by the Law and Society Committee (LawSoc) and the Student Initiative for Promotion of Legal Awareness (SIPLA) of the National Law School of India University(NLSIU) Bangalore, has made a slew of recommendations towards the draft Advocates Protection Bill (Draft Bill) even as it flagged the lack of diversity in the composition of the seven-member committee that had been constituted for the purpose.
The panel has recommended that the Bar Council of India(BCI) invite collectives of women lawyers, Bahujan lawyers, Adivasi lawyers, etc to audit the Draft Bill so that it better represents their experiences and interests; especially the particularized forms of harassment and violence directed against their identities.
The recommendations include the replacement of “family members” in Section 2(1) (c) (i) of the Draft Bill with the broader phrase “…any other person the Advocate may be interested in…” to reflect the progressive phrasing in Sec 503 of the IPC, 1860. Further, it points out that ‘coercion’ is not clearly defined in the current draft, despite its usage in illustrating ‘act of violence under Section 2 (1)(c).
The recommendations go on to posit that Section 2(1)(c)(v) be omitted in its entirety as the use of ‘derogatory language’ cannot be defined objectively (as an offence), without reference to subjective qualities or offences under the IPC. The recommendations say the ambiguity in this definition could potentially infringe upon the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a).
A further recommendation is made regarding the incorporation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 into the scheme of the Draft Bill to address any caste-based violence against advocates.
The recommendations further say the disproportionate punishments prescribed by the Draft Bill must be relaxed.