The Madras High Court Division Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and R Pongiappan on Friday, issued an interim stay on the operation of recently amended Regulation 46A of the Competition Commission of India (General) Amendment Regulations, 2018 which restrained advocates from accompanying without permission, interacting and consulting with clients summoned during an investigation by the Director General (DG) of the CCI, until court's further orders.
The Court's observation came in response to a petition moved by the Tamil Nadu Advocates Association and former Vice Chairman of Bar Council of TN and Puducherry PS Amalraj, challenging the said regulations on the ground of violating Section 35 to 48 of the Advocates Act, 1961 and an assault on the nobility and importance attached to advocates. The Association objected to sub clause (2) of the newly amended Regulation which debarred advocates from appearing before the Commission on a complaint by the DG for misconduct.
The commission on December 6, 2018, had notified the amendment to the competition act, bringing into force three features concerning lawyers.
- The Advocate shall not be allowed to accompany such person, unless a request in writing accompanied by a Vakalatnama or Power of Attorney is duly submitted to the DG, prior to the commencement of the proceedings.
- The Advocate shall not sit in front of the person so summoned.
- The Advocate shall not be at a hearing distance and shall not interact, consult, confer or in any manner communicate with the person, during his examination on oath
Infuriated with the newly added Regulation, the Petitioner Association had also raised their grievance in a letter addressed to the President of India, the Prime Minister of India and others, urging to take immediate action setting aside the said illegal regulations.
“The move is an attempt to usurp the functions of the Bar Council of India, which is the only authority to take disciplinary actions against advocates. The rules are discriminatory, as advocates alone had been singled out,” argued senior counsel S Prabakaran on the behalf of Association.
S Prabakaran further claimed that the rules are invalid, unconstitutional, and arbitrary and that as the commission is not headed by any judicial member it had no power to bring such amendments.
The amendment seems to have been passed in lieu of Delhi High Court order dated May 24, 2018 wherein it had directed the DG to ensure that ‘the counsel does not sit in front of the witness, but is some distance away and the witness should be not able to confer or consult her or him’.