Disciplinary Actions against Advocates: Procedures and Consequences

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In society, the legal profession is a pillar of justice with attorneys in positions of trust and responsibility. The Indian lawyers are governed by the Advocates Act of 1961 which was introduced to “amend and consolidate the law relating to the legal practitioners and to provide for the constitution of Bar Councils and an All-India Bar.” As per this Act, only those Advocates have the power to practice the law who are enrolled in the Bar Council. Moreover, this Act also provides certain Rights and Duties of an advocate that are necessary to be fulfilled for a better Bar-Bench Relationship. Just like any other professional occupation, the legal profession has ways of handling wrongdoing/misconduct and upholding ethical values. In layman’s language, any person who commits an offence, he/she becomes eligible to face legal consequences for the same, and legal professionals are no exception. Legal practitioners either Advocates, Lawyers, Financial Advisors, or any other licensed professional adhere to strict codes of conduct and ethical standards. If these standards are breached by any legal professional then disciplinary action is taken against them. Disciplinary actions against advocates serve to maintain the integrity of the legal system and protect the interests of clients and the public at large. A complaint against a lawyer may be filed for various reasons. Even though he is an attorney who represents his clients in court, like any other man, he can also break laws. In this article, we will explore disciplinary actions against advocates as well as determine the procedure and consequences for the same in case of misconduct by advocates. 

Where to submit a complaint against a lawyer?

The Bar Council of India (BCI) is a statutory body that regulates the legal practice and education of all Indian lawyers. Not only this, but the BCI also governs all other State Bar Councils and plays a significant role in prescribing standards of professional misconduct. Section 4 of the Advocate Act states that “There shall be a Bar Council for the territories to which this Act extends to be known as the Bar Council of India which shall consist of the following members, namely: the Attorney-General of India (ex officio), the Solicitor-General of India (ex-officio), and one member elected by each State Bar Council from amongst its members.” To accomplish the functions prescribed to the BCI, it has various committees, the Disciplinary Committee is one of them. A client may seek redress by submitting a complaint to the State Bar Council if they feel that their lawyer has behaved improperly. Instead of looking for help for himself, he is calling attention to the misconduct and pleading with the professional organization to uphold the industry's norms. The State Bar Council's disciplinary committee takes up the case when it comes before it. 

Procedure to file a complaint against a lawyer

In order to ensure fairness and transparency, Disciplinary procedures against advocates typically follow a structured process. As mentioned under Section 35 of the Advocate Act, 1961, every legal practitioner either advocate or lawyer is liable for punishment if he/she commits professional misconduct. Section 35(1) of the Act states that “Where on receipt of a complaint or otherwise a State Bar Council has reason to believe that any advocate on its roll has been guilty of professional or other misconduct, it shall refer the case for disposal to its disciplinary committee.” It means, if a complaint is filed against any advocate or the State Bar Council believes that any advocate on its roll is guilty of misconduct then the case should be referred to the disciplinary committee for disposal. The first and foremost step to initiate the proceedings for misconduct against an advocate is to file a complaint.

  • File a Complaint: It can originate from clients, other advocates, judges, or even the public and can be in the form of a petition. The same can be filed in English, Hindi, or any other regional language (declared as a state language). If the complaint is filed in any language other than English then it should be submitted with a copy of its English translation. 
  • Complaint Verification and Notice to Lawyer: The complaint must specify the alleged misconduct with sufficient detail to initiate an investigation. The details may include personal details of the petitioner and details such as name, address, phone number, and enrollment number of the lawyer against whom the complaint is lodged. The same should be signed and verified as mentioned under the CPC, 1908 (Civil Procedure Code). Further, the complaint must be accompanied by the fees as mentioned in the Bar Council of India Rules placed under Section 49 of the Advocate Act. After completion of these steps, the complaint is referred to disciplinary committees of the State Bar and a notice is sent to the concerned lawyer by the registrar. 
  • Investigation: The disciplinary committee initiates an investigation that aims to gather evidence and determine whether the advocate's conduct violates ethical rules or professional standards. Further, an appropriate date to hear the matter is selected by the disciplinary committee of the State Bar Council. 
  • Appearance or Hearing: In case the investigation finds merit in the complaint, a formal hearing is conducted. During the hearing, both the complainant and the advocate in question have the opportunity to present their arguments and evidence. This process ensures due process and allows the advocates to defend themselves against the allegations. If the complainant or the respondent fails to appear in an enquiry then the Committee may proceed with an ex-parte decree. 
  • Decision: Following the hearing, the disciplinary authority deliberates on the evidence presented and decides the allegations. The registrar sends the certified copy of the final order to both parties. The decision could range from dismissal of the complaint to imposing sanctions or recommending further action. 

In case, an advocate thinks that injustice is done to him, he/she can appeal to the Bar Council of India and the Supreme Court. Section 37 and Section 38 of the Advocate Act, 1961 deal with ‘Appeal to the Bar Council of India’ and ‘Appeal to the Supreme Court’ respectively. 

What are the consequences of disciplinary actions?

Disciplinary actions against advocates can result in several consequences depending on the severity of the misconduct, some of which are mentioned as follows:

  • Reprimand or Censure, a reprimand involves a formal expression of disapproval, often accompanied by a warning whereas censure is a stronger form of reprimand that may include conditions for the advocate to continue practicing.
  • Advocates may face suspension from practicing law for a specified period. During this time, they are prohibited from representing clients or providing legal services.
  • The most severe consequence, disbarment, involves the permanent revocation of an advocate's license to practice law. Disbarred advocates lose their ability to practice law and may face difficulty in other professional pursuits.
  • In addition to formal sanctions, advocates may be required to pay fines or cover the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

As mentioned under Section 35(3) of the Act, “The disciplinary committee of a State Bar Council after giving the advocate concerned and the Advocate-General an opportunity of being heard, may make any of the following orders, namely-

  • dismiss the complaint or, where the proceedings were initiated at the instance of the State Bar Council, direct that the proceedings be filed;
  • reprimand the advocate;
  • suspend the advocate from practice for such period as it may deem fit;
  • remove the name of the advocate from the State roll of advocates.”

Related Case Laws


To maintain the ethical standards and integrity of the legal profession, it is essential to discipline attorneys such as lawyers who engage in malpractice. The procedures ensure fairness and due process, while the consequences serve as a deterrent against misconduct. By upholding these standards, regulatory bodies uphold public trust and ensure that advocates continue to serve their clients and society with the highest standards of professionalism.


1. Which Section of the Advocate Act, 1961, deals with the punishment of advocates for misconduct?
2. What is the importance of disciplinary actions?