Can Lawyers Advertise Their Services?
Author: Saptarshi Roy
Designation: Student, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata
Advertisements can help in promotion or in selling a product, service or idea. Advertising is communicated through various mass media, like newspapers, magazines, television, radio, blogs, social media, websites or text messages. There are some professions in India like chartered accountant, company secretary, medical professions, physicians, lawyers which prohibits advertisements because it is against their professional ethics.
Now if we talk about legal profession, Rule 36 of Bar Council of India prohibits advocates from advertising. Rule 36 states that an advocate shall not directly or indirectly request work or advertise through notifications, advertisements, promotions, personal contacts, interviews which are not authorized by personal relations, furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments or producing his photographs to be published in reference to cases during which he has been engaged or concerned. His sign-board or name-plate should be of an inexpensive size. The sign-board or name-plate or stationery shouldn't indicate that he's or has been President or Member of a Bar Council or of any Association or that he has been related to a person or organization or with any particular cause or matter or that he focuses on any particular sort of worker or that he has been a Judge or an Advocate General.
There were many cases filed regarding this rule like in 1976, in the case of Maharashtra v. Dabholkar, it was said that the commercial competition can vulgarize the legal profession. In Tata Yellow Pages v. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd 1995, the litigant which is Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, is a public sector company and a licensee within the meaning of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. The MTNL used to publish and broadcast telephone directories with white pages, but after 1987, it entered into an agreement with an outsider to publish this directory. Additionally, MTNL enables contractors to earn revenue by posting directory lists. Tata Press Limited has also published the Yellow Pages of Tata Press. The MTNL and the central government filed a case in the Bombay Civil Court alleging that it had a monopoly on the printing and publication of telephone subscriber lists and that Tata Press Limited had no such rights. Tata Press was notorious for violating the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885. The court rejected MTNL's statement and the appeal went to the High Court. The High Court ruled in favor of MTNL, after which Tata Press Limited challenged the High Court decision in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has ruled that MTNL has no right to prevent Tata Press Limited from publishing "Tata Yellow Pages". It was said that Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India which is a fundamental right, protects commercial speech so providing a legal service is also a kind of business.
That is why in 2008, the Bar Council of India amended and modified the rules. As a result of this, we can see different websites or different pages of different lawyers and various advocates in the current times to promote their services to others.