Posted in Legislative Research on Feb 27, 2020
This bill was submitted by Amyotha Hluttaw MP U Aung Thein, of Bago Region constituency no. 12, on 27th January 2020. It was posted on the Amyotha Hluttaw website on the same day. It is known that the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM) gave a hand on drafting the bill.
Current Status (27.02.2020) – awaiting debate in Amyotha Hluttaw
The Bar Council Act (1929)
The Law Amending the Bar Council Act (1989)
The Law Amending the Bar Council Act (2019)
The Legal Practitioners Act (1880)
Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM)
The ILAM has over 5,000 members and has been a registered association the Ministry of Home Affairs since 28th November 2016.
According to their Annual Report released by the Union Supreme Court, the Courts admitted 2,065 applicants to be Apprentice Lawyers in 2018, issued 1,016 Higher Grade Pleader licenses and 1,226 Advocate licenses. During the same year, upon receiving complaints, the Court took actions against 8 Higher Grade Pleaders and 14 Advocates.
A note on different terms for legal practitioners
Different titles are used for lawyers in Myanmar depending on their qualifications and experience. Here we provide a very brief explanation to aid understanding of this Bill:
- Apprentice Lawyer: Those who are graduated with B.L. or L.L.B from local universities, finished the course of registered legal practitioner, passed the legal exam arranged by the Ministry of Education, or are graduated abroad with not less than described degrees must undergo a one-year apprenticeship under a 5-year-experienced advocate.
- Higher Grade Pleader: A Higher Grade Pleader has to register at the RBC and is entitled to practise in at District/Township Court, Custom Office, Appeal Office, Departmental Examination Office, Lawyer Ethics Working Committee (or Tribunal) and other allowed offices (which are at a specific Region/State and exclude high courts).
- Advocate: Higher Grade Pleaders, after three years of practice may apply to the Myanmar Bar Council to become an Advocate. This means they may practice in the High Courts of Myanmar, and even the Union Supreme Court.
- Law Officers: This is the term used in Myanmar for lawyers who act on behalf of the government, which means they act as the prosecutor in criminal cases. The most senior law officer in Myanmar is the Attorney General.
(2) Bill Summary
The bill sets out the membership and role of the Myanmar Bar Council and Regional Bar Councils, their duties and powers, and the process for applications to become an Apprentice Lawyer, Higher Grade Pleader or Advocate. It includes the duties and rights of lawyers, lawyer ethics, prohibitions and penalties, and the establishment of the fund to implement the law.
- Its objectives are:
- To increase the number of qualified legal practitioners
- To ensure clients’ rights and protection
- To ensure legal practitioners’ deserved rights
- The Myanmar Bar Council (MBC) will be formed by the Union Attorney General with the consent of the Union Government, comprising 17 members. The Attorney General is the chair, the director of the Union Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) is the co-secretary, the director of the Union Supreme Court is a member, and elected advocates take the remaining places, including vice-chair and secretary.
- The bill prescribes criteria for elected advocate members, which include a requirement to have at least 10 years’ experience as an advocate. The tenure is 3/4/5 years and members can serve for a maximum of two terms consecutively. Rules for the termination of membership are also stipulated.
- The MBC will form Regional Bar Councils (RBC) by negotiating with the relevant Region/State Government and the NayPyiTaw Council, and the bill determines the number of council members and the criteria for these Councils too. Elected advocates in this case must have at least 5 years’ experience.
- If they satisfy the prescribed qualifications and other requirements, individuals can apply for admission as an Apprentice Lawyer to an RBC. If public staff from government offices meets the prescriptions, they can also apply for admission, with permission from their departments.
- After a year as an Apprentice Lawyer, one can apply for admission as a Higher Grade Pleader to the RBC. Applications must be accompanied by a recommendation from a relevant advocate and production of a daily legal diary. Level-4 law officers from the government can apply for the admission to the RBC through the UAGO or the relevant office. The license tenure is 1 year and applications for renewal must be submitted 90 days before the expiry.
- Lawyers can apply for admission as an Advocate to the MBC, provided they have 3 years acting as a Higher Grade Pleader, or 5 years as other government staff/judicial/legal duties, with a Higher Grade Pleader License.
- An order of suspension or rejection of an application of Apprentice Lawyer or Higher Grade Pleader, and other orders, can be appealed at the MBC. The bill also includes lawyer ethics, and prohibitions and penalties.
Legal Aid Law (2016)
Moe Aung, The Ananda, firstname.lastname@example.org