Section 49 of the Advocates Act, 1961, and Chapter II, Part VI, Section IV, Rule 36 of the Bar Council of India, make provisions on Etiquette Rules and Standards of Professional Conduct for Lawyers. These provisions stipulate that advocates are prohibited from advertising their services.
Citing these provisions, the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Gao has recently issued a letter stating that lawyers are prohibited from advertising their services in Newspapers and through WhatsApp.
This new directive has been met with strong opposition from lawyers, especially as regards the restriction on WhatsApp.
Some senior advocates have vehemently expressed their views against the new directives as they believe that the restrictions are uncalled for.
The view expressed by Solicitor Stuti Gahya is that most law services are now multi-jurisdictional, and as such, it is now imperative for lawyers to showcase their services and expertise through digital platforms.
Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, expressing his own view, has pointed out that social media platforms, including WhatsApp, are now used by many professionals across the globe to share their opinions and expertise. Thus, this new directive imposes unnecessary limitations and puts Indian lawyers at a disadvantaged position, compared to their counterparts in foreign countries who are not subjected to such restrictions.
As opined by Solicitor Stuti Galiya, the Bar Council of India needs to revisit some of the restrictions, take a more liberal and pro-business approach, and lift the restrictions.
Senior Advocate Subhas Ghatge, in expressing his own opposition to the new restriction, has stated that the Bar Council’s letter is unconstitutional and it imposes an infringement on the freedom of lawyers. According to him, “If messages on WhatsApp can be seen as advertisement, so can a board outside the lawyer’s office”.
In defending the letter, the Secretary to the Bar Council, Advocate Pravin Ranpise, has stated that the Rules on advertisement has been in existence and all lawyers, who are registered with the Bar Council, must abide by the rules. According to him, the Bar Council cannot change the rules unless the Rules are amended.
Fortunately, the Vice Chairman of the Bar Council of India, Advocate Satish Deshmukh, has called a Bar Council Meeting, fixed for the first week of November, where all the points raised will be discussed in detail.