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Why Parliament passed the Advocates Amendment Bill, which aims to weed out ‘touts’ | Explained News


Aimed at weeding out ‘touts’ from the legal system, the Bill repeals the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, and amends the Advocates Act, 1961, to reduce “the number of superfluous enactments in the statute book” and repeal all “obsolete laws”.

Replying to a question on the Bill, Minister for Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal said the Legal Practitioners Act was a colonial-era Act without any utility, adding that 1,486 such laws have been done away with since 2014.

Initiating the discussion, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram welcomed the Bill, saying, “Because of the asymmetry in our society in terms of education, access to people in authority and wealth, sometimes people do not know how to navigate the legal system…This is what is being exploited and some people step in as touts. Touts thrive because of the complexity in dealing with our legal system”.

What does the now-repealed 1879 Act state?

The Legal Practitioners Act came into force in 1880, “to consolidate and amend the law relating to Legal Practitioners in certain provinces.” The Act initially extended to areas in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, and Delhi. Any state government could, by notification in the Official Gazette, extend it to their states.

Festive offer

Section 2 of the 1879 Act defined the term “legal practitioner” to include advocates, vakils, or attorneys of any High Court. It also introduced a new definition of the term “tout”.

A “Tout” was defined as someone who procures, in consideration of any remuneration from any legal practitioner, the employment of a legal practitioner in any legal business; or one who proposes to any legal practitioner or anyone interested in any legal business to procure, for remuneration, the employment of the legal practitioner in such business.

Simply, a tout is someone who procures clients for a legal practitioner in exchange for payment. The definition also included people who frequented civil or criminal courts, revenue offices, railway stations, etc. for such procurement purposes

The Advocates Act of 1961 was passed in independent India to create a single Act to regulate the legal profession. This Act repealed a majority of the 1879 Act but left behind provisions relating to its extent, definitions, and powers to frame and publish lists of touts.

What is the Advocates Act of 1961?

The Advocates Act, 1961, was enacted to amend and consolidate the law relating to legal practitioners and to provide for the constitution of Bar Councils and an All-India Bar.

Before this, legal practitioners were governed by three Acts – the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, the Bombay Pleaders Act, 1920, and the Indian Bar Councils Act, 1926.

Post-independence, a need was felt for bringing in changes in India’s judicial administration. The Law Commission was tasked with preparing a report on reforms. In its 249th Report titled ‘Obsolete Laws: Warranting Immediate Repeal’, the Commission recommended repealing the 1879 Act. Additionally, the All-India Bar Committee made its recommendations on the subject in 1953. Taking these into account, the 1961 Act was passed.

What does the Advocates Amendment Bill, 2023, say?

The new Bill now amends the 1961 Act by inserting a new provision right after Section 45, which prescribes six months of imprisonment for persons illegally practising in courts and before other authorities.

The new provision, Section 45A, states that the Bill enables every HC and district judge to frame and publish lists of touts. However, no person’s name will be included in any such list until they have had an opportunity to show cause against such inclusion.

Further, any authority empowered to make lists of alleged or suspected touts can send them to any subordinate court, which, after holding an inquiry into the conduct of such persons, will allow them an opportunity to show cause. After this, the lower court will report back to the authority ordering the inquiry.

If proven to be a tout, the person’s name will be included in the list of touts that will be published by the authority and hung in every court. The court or judge may exclude any person whose name is included in any such list from the court’s vicinity.

Additionally, this provision punishes anyone acting as a tout “while his name is included in any such list” with imprisonment up to three months, a fine that may extend to five hundred rupees, or both.

Section 45A of the new Bill is analogous to Section 36 of the 1879 Act. However, the 1961 Act did not include the provision. This is exactly what the new Bill sought to remedy.

Doing so would “reduce the number of superfluous enactments in the statute book,” says the Bill’s accompanying Statement of Objects and Reasons. Keeping in line with the government’s policy of repealing all obsolete laws or pre-independence Acts that have lost their utility, and in consultation with the Bar Council of India, the government decided to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act and amend the Advocates Act.





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