Advocates play a critical role in upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of their clients. However, this role comes with a great deal of responsibility, and advocates are held to high ethical standards to ensure they are serving their clients in a just and ethical manner. In this article, we will explore the professional ethics of advocates, including the standards and principles that govern their conduct.
What are Professional Ethics?-:
Professional ethics are the standards of conduct that govern the behavior of members of a particular profession. These standards are based on a shared set of values and principles that are meant to promote ethical behavior and maintain the integrity of the profession. In the legal profession, these standards are particularly important, as advocates are responsible for upholding the law and protecting the rights of their clients.
The Role of Advocates in Upholding Professional Ethics-:
As officers of the court, advocates have a duty to uphold the law and maintain the integrity of the legal profession. This means that they must act in the best interests of their clients while also upholding the principles of justice and fairness. Advocates must also adhere to the ethical standards set forth by the governing body of their profession, such as the American Bar Association (ABA) or the Bar Council of India (BCI).
The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct-:
The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct is a set of guidelines that govern the ethical behavior of advocates in the United States. These rules cover a wide range of motifs, including customer confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and the duty to give competent representation. Some of the key principles of the ABA Model Rules include:
The duty of competence: Advocates must provide competent representation to their clients, meaning they must possess the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
The duty of loyalty: Advocates must act in the best interests of their clients and avoid conflicts of interest that would compromise their loyalty to their clients.
The duty of confidentiality: Advocates must keep client information confidential and not disclose it without the client’s informed consent unless required by law or court order.
The duty of candor: Advocates must be truthful and candid in their communications with clients, courts, and other parties.
Advocates Act: The Backbone Of Legal Profession-:
The Advocates Act passed in May 1961 and enforced on 16th August 1961 applies to the whole of India.
The Lawyers Act was to amend the laws related to legal interpreters. It provides the constitution of members for the State Bar Council and Bar Council of India.
The act aims to constitute only one class of legal interpreters known as ‘ Advocate ’ and provides invariant qualification for admission to the Bar. The act also vests the powers of the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Council to take correctional action when needed.
The Bar Council of India Rules-:
In India, advocates are governed by the Bar Council of India Rules, which set out the ethical standards for the legal profession. Some of the key principles of the Bar Council of India Rules include:
The duty to maintain professional integrity: Advocates must maintain the dignity and integrity of the legal profession and not engage in any conduct that would bring the profession into disrepute.
The duty to uphold the rule of law: Advocates must uphold the rule of law and promote respect for the legal system.
The duty to protect client interests: Advocates must act in the best interests of their clients and not disclose any confidential information without their client’s consent.
The duty to provide competent representation: Advocates must provide competent representation to their clients, which includes possessing the requisite knowledge, skill, and diligence necessary for the representation.
Advocates have followed their professional ethics in Modern times?-:
It is important to note that the vast majority of advocates take their professional ethics seriously and work diligently to adhere to the standards set forth by their governing bodies.
Of course, there may be instances where some advocates do not meet these ethical standards, and these cases are typically addressed through the disciplinary processes of their governing bodies. It is also worth noting that adherence to ethical standards can sometimes be challenging, especially when faced with difficult legal or ethical dilemmas. Nevertheless, the ethical principles and standards are designed to guide advocates in their decision-making and help them maintain the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.
Punishment for misconduct-:
Section 35 of the Advocates Act provides discipline for an advocate for misconduct. This section provides that when a complaint is entered, or State Bar Council has the reason to believe that an advocate on a roll is shamefaced of professional misconduct, the matter gets appertained to the correctional Commission for disposal. The correctional commission also decided the date of the hail. The notice gets served to the concerned advocate and the Advocate–General of the State.
1. Noratanmal Chaurasia vs. M.R. Murli (2004) 5 SCC 689
The Supreme Court has held that misconduct has not been defined in the Advocates Act, 1966 but misconduct envisages a breach of discipline, although it would not be possible to lay down exhaustively what would constitute misconduct and indiscipline which however, is wide enough to include wrongful omission or commission, whether done or omitted to be done intentionally or unintentionally.
2. Narain Pandey vs. Pannalal Pandey (2013) 11 SCC 435
An advocate who’s set up shamefaced of having filed Vakalatnamas without authority and also filing false and fictitious negotiations on behalf of the customer without any authority deserves discipline proportionate to the degree of misconduct. similar discipline must meet two objectives- deterrence and correction. The Court appertained to the Preamble of the BCI Rules- Chapter II while adjudicating the misconduct.
3. Shambhuram Yadav vs. Hanumandas Khatri AIR 2001 SC 2509
The lawyer suggested that his customer give a fix to the judge to get the suit decided in his favor. The Supreme Court held the counsel shamefaced of professional misconduct. ( Violation of Rules 3 and 4 of BCI Rules- – Chapter II)
4. Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh vs. Kurapati Satyanarayana AIR 2003 SC 178
The lawyer misappropriated his client’s money. BCI acquitted him on the ground that there was no intention. Supreme Court held this decision of BCI to be “unfounded and perverse” and lacking the serious thought which was required to be given to the disciplinary committee of the BCI in the discharge of quasi-judicial functions while probing into similar grave cases.(Rules 23 and 25 of the BCI Rules- Chapter II)
The professional ethics of advocates are critical to maintaining the integrity of the legal profession and upholding the rule of law. Advocates have a duty to act in the best interests of their clients while also upholding the principles of justice and fairness. By adhering to the ethical standards set forth by their governing bodies, advocates can ensure they are serving their clients in a just and ethical manner.
American Bar Association.(2021). Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/model_rules_of_professional_conduct_table_of_contents/
Bar Council of India. (2021).Rules on Professional Standards and Conduct of Advocates.Retrieved from http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/about/professional-standards-rules/rules-on-professional-standards-and-conduct-of-advocates/