India today, is at the threshold of great change. As markets open up around the globe and new businesses make a foray into the country, India’s 1.2 million strong legal community is
faced with a new set of challenges thrown up by globalization.
The legal community in India has always played a critical role in shaping the future of the country. Apart from the vital role played by it in the administration of justice to one of the largest populations in the world, it has also been at the helm of several changes in policy. In the course of India’s transition to a global economy, the legal community has continuously
upgraded its own standards to meet the issues thrown up by India’s unique demography. India’s Bar, with its vast wealth of experience, is without doubt, amongst the most vibrant and tenacious legal communities in the world.
It is in recognition of this evolution in professional and ethical standards within the legal community that the Bar Council of India wishes to set out the present set of ethical standards of the Indian Bar.
This Code provides a general guide for ethical standards to be adhered to by members of the Bar whether practicing individually or as a law firm and whether engaged in litigation or transactional / corporate work. The expression “advocate” in these rules / Code of Conduct
shall include to the extent practicable, any lawyer or group of lawyers practising as part of a law firm and the law firm itself.
An advocate shall, at all times, comport himself in a manner befitting the high standards of the Indian Bar and of his/her status as an officer of the Court and a privileged member of the community, bearing in mind that what may be lawful and moral for a person who is not a member of the Bar, or for a member of the Bar in his/her non-professional capacity may still be improper for an advocate.
Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing obligation, an advocate shall fearlessly uphold the interests of his/her client and in his/her conduct, conform to the rules hereinafter mentioned both in letter and in spirit. The rules hereinafter mentioned contain canons of conduct and etiquette adopted as general guides; yet the specific mention
thereof shall not be construed as a denial of the existence of others equally imperative though not specifically mentioned.
I. AN ADVOCATE’S DUTY IN CONNECTION WITH BRIEFS
1. An Advocate is under an obligation to accept a brief in the Courts in which he/she
professes to practise, at a proper professional fee, unless there are special
circumstances which justify his/her refusal to accept a particular brief. In particular,
every person who is charged before the Court has a right to services of counsel in the
presentation of his/her defence. Subject to what has been said above, it is the duty of
every advocate to whom the privilege of practising in Courts of Law is afforded, to
undertake the defence of an accused person who requires his/her services. Any
action which is designed to interfere with the performance of this duty is an
interference with the course of justice.
2. It shall be the duty of an advocate, when accepting a brief, to record in a letter to
his/her client, the scope of work to be done in the brief and the services for which the
client will be charged by the advocate. Any amendment to the scope of work may be
done with the consent of the client and shall be duly recorded by the advocate. 3. An advocate shall not stipulate for a fee contingent on the results of litigation or agree
to share the proceeds thereof.
4. An Advocate may decline a specialist brief if he/she considers himself not competent
to accept the brief.
5. An earlier brief, once accepted, takes precedence over a later brief, should any conflict
arise in regard to the performance of such briefs.
6. An advocate shall give his/her personal attention to all briefs. In doing so, an Advocate
must hold requisite conferences/ discussions with clients/ briefing counsel. It is
improper to hand on a brief received by him to anyone else.
7. It is improper for an advocate to hold a brief for another advocate, except in the case
of illness or the intervention of unforeseen and unavoidable contingencies causing the
latter's absence sine lucri causa or for any other reason which, in the opinion of the
Bar Council, is good and sufficient in the circumstances. This shall include the absence
of a member on Bar Council business.
8. An Advocate shall accept only as many briefs as he/she is sure he/she can
attend to, and shall refrain from accepting briefs in which he/she is likely not to be
available owing to his/her preoccupation in other matters.
9. It shall be improper for an advocate to charge an additional fee to ensure his/her
presence in a matter, once he/she has accepted a brief.
10. In a case where an Advocate after obtaining fee in advance is unable to appear in
Court at the time of hearing of the case, the Advocate shall forthwith refund the entire
fee, so obtained, to the client.
11. “Brief” includes transactional and non-litigation work entrusted by a client and
handled by a lawyer or a firm of lawyers.
II. AN ADVOCATE’S DUTY TO THE COURT
PRESENTATION BEFORE A COURT
12. An advocate shall appear in court at all times only in the prescribed dress, and his/her
appearance shall always be presentable.
13. An advocate shall, during the presentation of his/her case, and while otherwise acting
before a court, conduct himself/herself with honesty, dignity and self-respect. 14. An advocate shall, during the presentation of his/her case, and while otherwise acting
before a court, address only the Court at all times. He/she shall refrain from making
any statements to the opposite party or interrupting the opposite party when it is not
his/her chance to address the Court. An interjection may be made only to respond to a
question posed by the Court.
15. An advocate shall maintain, towards the courts, a respectful attitude, bearing in mind
the dignity of the judicial office. He/she shall, however, not be servile and whenever
there is proper ground for serious complaint against a judicial officer, it shall be
his/her right and duty to register his/her protest in Court and submit his/her grievance
to proper authorities.
16. An Advocate shall treat the opposing Advocate and all witnesses and officers of the
Court with dignity and respect and refrain from making any personal statements
against any of them unless it pertains to the merits of the case.
17. An advocate shall not influence the decision of a court by any illegal or improper
means. Private communications with a judge relating to a pending case are forbidden. 18. An advocate must, at the appropriate time in the hearing of the case and if the court
has not yet been informed of that matter, inform the court of:
(a) any binding authority;
(b) any authority decided by an intermediate court of appeal;
(c) any authority on the same or materially similar legislation as that in question in the
case, including any authority decided at first instance in the Supreme Court, which
has not been disapproved; or
(d) any applicable legislation which the advocate has reasonable grounds to believe to
be directly in point, against the client’s case.
19. An advocate must inform the court of a misapprehension by the court as to the effect
of an order which the court is making, as soon as the advocate becomes aware of the
20. An advocate whose client informs the advocate during a hearing or after judgment or
decision is reserved and while it remains pending, that, upon an issue which may be
material the client has lied to the court or has procured another person to lie to the
Court or has falsified or procured another person to falsify in any way a document
which has been tendered:
(a) must refuse to take any further part in the case and formally seek discharge as
advocate for such client, from the Court unless the client authorises the advocate
to inform the court of the lie or falsification;
(b) must promptly inform the court of the lie or falsification upon the client
authorising the advocate to do so; but
(c) must not otherwise inform the court of the lie or falsification.
OF MISLEADING STATEMENTS
21. An advocate must not knowingly make a misleading statement to a court on any
22. An advocate must take all necessary steps to correct any misleading statement made
by the advocate to a court as soon as possible after the advocate becomes aware that
the statement was misleading.
23. The Advocate’s duty to divulge to the Court material facts of which he/she has
knowledge is governed on the one hand by his/her overriding duty not to mislead the
Court, and on the other by his/her duty not to disclose to any person, including in a
proper case the Court itself, information confided to him as a lawyer. The application
of this principle in particular circumstances and the question of when an advocate
may be said to have knowledge of facts may be difficult to resolve. However as a
general rule, an advocate will not have made a misleading statement to a court simply
by failing to disclose facts known to the advocate concerning the client’s character or
past, when the advocate makes other statements concerning those matters to the
court, and those statements are not themselves misleading.
III. AN ADVOCATE’S DUTY TO THE CLIENT
(“Clients” includes a client of the law firm of which the advocate is a partner or
associate, whether or not the advocate handles the client’s work)
24. It shall be the duty of an advocate to fearlessly uphold the interests of his/her client by
all fair and honourable means without regard to any unpleasant consequences to
himself or any other. He/she shall defend a person accused of a crime regardless of
his/her personal opinion as to the guilt of the accused; bearing in mind that his/her
loyalty is to the law which requires that no man should be convicted without adequate
25. An advocate must seek to assist the client to understand the issues in the case and the
client’s possible rights and obligations, if the advocate is instructed to give advice on
any such matter, sufficiently to permit the client to give proper instructions,
particularly in connection with any compromise of the case.
26. An Advocate shall not make any compromise or concession without the proper and
specific instructions of his/her client.
27. An advocate must (unless circumstances warrant otherwise in the advocate’s
considered opinion) advise a client who is charged with a criminal offence about any
law, procedure or practice which in substance holds out the prospect of some
advantage (including diminution of penalty), if the client pleads guilty or authorises
other steps towards reducing the issues, time, cost or distress involved in the
28. An advocate must regularly and promptly update the client on the developments in
his/her case, as often as possible, and definitely after every hearing in the matter. 29. In civil matters, the advocate may, as far as possible, suggest to the client the option
of mediation or arbitration as methods of resolving disputes, as an alternative to
initiating court proceedings.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVILEGE
30. The lawyer has a duty to hold in strict confidence all information concerning the
business and affairs of the client acquired in the course of the professional
relationship, and shall not divulge any such information except as expressly or
impliedly authorized by the client, required by law or otherwise required by this Code.
(a) Where a lawyer believes upon reasonable grounds that there is an imminent risk
to an identifiable person or group of death or serious bodily harm, including
serious psychological harm that would substantially interfere with health or well-
being, the lawyer shall disclose confidential information where it is necessary to
do so in order to prevent the death or harm, but shall not disclose more
information than is required.
(b) The lawyer who has reasonable grounds for believing that a dangerous situation is
likely to develop at a court or tribunal facility shall inform the person having
responsibility for security at the facility and give particulars, being careful not to
disclose confidential information except to the extent necessary. Where possible
the lawyer should suggest solutions to the anticipated problem such as:
(i) the need for further security;
(ii) that judgment be reserved;
(iii) such other measure as may seem advisable.
(c) Disclosure may also be justified in order to establish or collect a fee, or to defend
the lawyer or the lawyer’s associates or employees against any allegation of
malpractice or misconduct, but only to the extent necessary for such purposes.
31. An advocate briefed to appear in criminal proceedings, whose client confesses guilt to him, but maintains a plea of not guilty:
(a) may return the brief, if there is enough time for another legal practitioner to take
over the case properly before the hearing, and the client does not insist on the
advocate continuing to appear for the client;
(b) in cases where the Advocate keeps the brief for the client:
(i) must not falsely suggest that some other person committed the offence charged; (ii) must not set up an affirmative case inconsistent with the confession; but (iii) may argue that the evidence as a whole does not prove that the client is guilty
of the offence charged; and
(iv) may argue that for some reason of law the client is not guilty of the offence
(v) may argue that for any other reason not prohibited by (i) or (ii) the client should
not be convicted of the offence charged.
32. An advocate whose client informs the advocate that the client intends to disobey a court’s order must:
(a) advise the client against that course and warn the client of its dangers; (b) not advise the client how to carry out or conceal that course; but (c) not inform the court or the opponent of the client’s intention unless -
(i) the client has authorised the advocate to do so beforehand; or
(ii) the advocate believes on reasonable grounds that the client’s conduct
constitutes a threat to any person’s safety.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
33. An advocate shall not ordinarily withdraw from engagements, once accepted, without
sufficient cause and unless reasonable and sufficient notice is given to the client. Upon
his/her withdrawal from a case, he/she shall refund such part of the fee as has not
34. An advocate shall not, at any time, be a party to fomenting of litigation. 35. An advocate shall not act on the instructions of any person other than his/her client or
his/her authorised agent.
36. An advocate who has, at any time, advised in connection with the institution of a suit,
appeal or other matter or has drawn, or advised on, pleadings, or acted for a party,
shall not act, appear or plead for the opposite party.
37. An advocate should not accept a brief or appear in a case in which he/she has reason
to believe that he/she will be a witness, and if being engaged in a case, it becomes
apparent that he/she is a witness on a material question of fact, he/she should not
continue to appear as an Advocate if he/she can retire without jeopardising his/her
38. An advocate shall at the commencement of his/her engagement and during the
continuance thereof, make all such full and frank disclosure to his/her client relating
to his/her connection with the parties and any interest in or about the controversy as
are likely to affect his/her client’s judgment in either engaging him or continuing the
39. An advocate shall not advise or represent both sides of a dispute and, except after
adequate disclosure to and with the consent of the clients, preferably after receiving
an independent legal advice, shall not act or continue to act in a matter when there is
a conflicting interest, which gives rise to substantial risk that the advocate’s
representation of the client would be materially and adversely affected by the
advocate’s duties to another current client, a former client, or a third person including,
but not limited to, the duties and loyalties of the advocate or a partner or professional associate of the advocate of the law firm in which such advocate is a partner or associate, to another client, whether involved in the particular matter or not, including the obligation to communicate information.
40. Before the advocate accepts a brief from more than one client in the same matter, the advocate must advise the clients that the advocate or a partner or professional associate of the advocate has been asked to act for both or all of them, that no information received in connection with the matter from one can be treated as confidential so far as any of the others is concerned and that, if a dispute develops that cannot be resolved, the advocate cannot continue to act for both or all of them with respect to the matter and may have to withdraw completely.
41. Where a advocate or a partner or professional associate of the advocate has a continuing relationship with a client for whom the advocate or a partner or professional associate of the advocate in the law firm in which such advocate is a partner or associate acts regularly, before the advocate accepts joint briefs for that client and another client in a matter or transaction, the advocate must advise the other client of the continuing relationship and recommend that the other client obtain independent legal advice about the joint retainer. If, following such disclosure, all parties are content that the advocate act for them, the advocate should obtain their consent, preferably in writing, or record their consent in a separate letter to each. The advocate should, however, guard against acting for more than one client where, despite the fact that all parties concerned consent, it is reasonably obvious that a contentious issue may arise between them or that their interests, rights or obligations will diverge as the matter progresses.
42. If a contentious issue arises between clients on a joint retainer, the advocate, although not necessarily precluded from advising them on other non-contentious matters, would be in breach of this Code if the advocate attempted to advise them on the contentious issue. In such circumstances the advocate should ordinarily refer the clients to other advocates. However, if the issue is one that involves little or no legal advice, for example, a business rather than a legal question in a proposed business
transaction, and the clients are sophisticated, they may be permitted to settle the issue by direct negotiation in which the advocate does not participate.
43. An advocate may only act in a matter which is adverse to the interests of a current client provided that:
(a) the matter is unrelated to any matter in which the advocate is acting for the
current client; and
(b) no conflicting interest is present
44. Where an advocate has acted for a former client and, in that context, has obtained confidential information relevant to a new matter, the advocate’s partner or associate of the law firm in which such advocate is a partner or associate may act in the new matter against the former client if
(a) the former client consents to the advocate’s partner or associate acting, or
(b) the new matter does not involve attacking the prior legal work or, in effect,
changing sides on a central aspect of the prior legal work and the law firm
establishes that it is in the interests of justice that it act in the new matter, having
regard to all relevant circumstances, including
(i) the adequacy and timing of the measures taken to ensure that no disclosure of
the former client’s confidential information to the partner or associate having
carriage of the new matter will occur,
(ii) the extent of prejudice to any party,
(iii) the good faith of the parties,
(iv) the availability of suitable alternative counsel, and
(v) issues affecting the public interest.
45. An advocate may act against a former client in a fresh and independent matter wholly unrelated to any work the advocate has previously done for that person. An advocate may advise, represent or take a position for or against a particular issue for another client where the immediate interests of the former client are not directly and adversely affected by the advocate’s representation of another client. However, if the