Procedure to File a Complaint Against a Lawyer

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Advocacy is considered a noble profession and an advocate is the most accountable, privileged person of the society. They are expected to adhere to the highest standards of probity and honour. An advocate should serve the common man with compassion, morality, and lawfully. Professional misconduct results in disgraceful or dishonourable conduct that does not befit an advocate.

A brief overview for filing a complaint

Where to file a complaint?

Every state has a bar association that regulates and looks into lawyers and their conduct. Any complaints regarding your lawyer should be addressed to your state’s bar association. Most will have a complaint form given on their website and guidance on how to fill it out.

Initial Investigation

All complaints are reviewed by lawyers employed by the State bar hence, there is no conflict of interest. If the State bar finds that the complaint is not an ethical violation, the case will be closed.

Lawyer’s Response

If the State bar finds that there is any evidence of an ethical violation, then it will usually notify your lawyer. It will allow him to respond to the said allegations. He might submit documents and evidence to justify his actions. The complaint will be reviewed again, after the lawyer’s response is received. If there is not enough evidence to conduct further investigation, then the case will be closed. This will be notified to you by mail. 

More Investigation

If the State bar will commence a formal investigation then it will decide not to close the case. At the time of the investigation, you may be contacted to give further evidence. You might be required to testify before the Disciplinary Board at a formal hearing. The process can last from six to eighteen months.

Charges faced by Lawyer

If the State bar concludes that your lawyer violated an ethics rule, your lawyer may face the following:

  • Probation: Your lawyer may be monitored in case the violation is minor. His practice will be restricted for a set amount of time.
  • Private reprimand: This is a written reprimand from the state bar that will go into your lawyer’s permanent file.
  • Public reprimand: This written reprimand may be published in your local newspaper or your State bar’s magazine.
  • Suspension: For more serious violations, your lawyer may be suspended from practising law. The duration of suspension may vary from state to state.
  • Disbarment: Your lawyer may be disbarred, for the most egregious violations. This means his license is taken away and he cannot practice law. It varies from state to state for how many years he must wait before he can petition for reinstatement.

Procedure to file a complaint under State Bar Council and Bar Council Of India

By seeing to the needs and legal rights of the people in the country there are certain provisions. The respective provisions are available under the bar council as well as the state council. It consists of punishment for any violation of the rules and rights of the people for the benefit of the public at large. The aggrieved party can file complaints against such lawyers under the following authorities:

State Bar Council

As the law varies from state to state in an initial manner complaint is filed under the state bar council. The aggrieved party can file a complaint against a lawyer in the state bar council in the following manner:

Step 1

A complaint against a lawyer has to be in the form of a plaint. It should specify details of the lawyer such as the name, address, contact, enrollment number of the advocate, and any other detail. A colour photograph of the person complaining is required on the front page of all 35 copies. All 35 copies including the original plaint shall be signed after verification and are to be submitted.

Step 2

The petitioner is also required to mention his details in the plaint. Such as the name, contact, email-id, address, and any other relevant detail of the person. It should be filled in case the authorities want to contact the person filing the complaint.

Step 3

The plaint is to be written in Hindi, English, or any other regional language of the state.  It should be written as directed by the Bar Council of India to the state authority. The copy of its translation is to be submitted in English in the Bar Council of India. This is to be done if the plaint is written in any regional language.

Step 4

The authorities need the plaint on a non-judicial stamp paper of Rs. 10/- with an affidavit.  It is required to be attested by the Oath Commissioner or the Notary, to support the complaint.

Step 5

The individual is also required to pay Rs. 500 or more. It shall depend upon the State where the case is filed, as the complaint fee to the board with the plaint.

Step 6

The complaint will be considered in the meeting of the State Bar Association’s Disciplinary Committee.  The petitioner will be served notice regarding the complaint and its further proceedings.

Step 7

The committee discusses whether the complaint is required to be investigated. Many complaints are filed for the wrong reasons. The committee investigates the matter. Then the Disciplinary Committee of the State Bar Council chooses a particular date. It is done when to hear the matter in case the lawyer is found guilty of a wrongful act. The committee serves a notice to both the parties to be present on the date of the hearing in the presence of the Advocate-General of the State.

Power of the State Bar Council

Every state has its own rules and policies to deal with such matters. According to Section 35 of the Indian Advocates Act, 1961, the committee can dismiss the complaint. It can be done if it seems that the complaint is not legitimate.

A condition imposed by the council that the proceedings are required to be completed within one year. It shall be noted from the date from which the complaint was filed by the petitioner. In case they are concluded after the given period then it will be regarded as illegal. It will not be binding upon the respondent.  

Bar Council of India

The procedure to file a complaint under the Bar Council of India is the same as in the State Bar Council. 

  • The Secretary of the council has the power to call the petitioner if he is not satisfied with any document. 
  • For the matter to be heard, the complainant has to pay a certain amount of fees to the Bar Council of India.
  • After this, a proper investigation will be conducted in the matter, if it is considered important by the members of the committee.
  • The matter is then registered. 
  • The bar council after proper investigation will start with the proceedings. 
  • After this, it can pronounce its decision under Section 36 and Section 37 of the act.
  • Parties can file an appeal in the apex court if they are not satisfied with the decision of the Bar Council of India.
  • The appeal has to be filed against the order within 60 days from the date of order. 
  • The party should be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard in court. It should comply with the order of the Bar Council of India.

Power of the Bar Council of India

The aggrieved party can go to the Bar Council of India within 60 days period and appeal to the Disciplinary Committee. This can be done when the state bar council has passed an order under Section 35 in Consent with the Advocate-General of the State. The Bar Council of India and the committee have to listen to the appeal made. It can give any order of punishment of the State Bar Council. It cannot change the order of the Disciplinary Committee. 

Under Section 35, proceedings are not completed by State Bar on time then the Bar Council of India can do the same. Under the Sub-Clause of Section 36 of the Act, the Bar Council of India can do a similar act.


Cases, where lawyers are seen deceiving clients instead of providing justice to them, remove the faith from the justice system. Hence, we should be aware and inquire while selecting any lawyer. 

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