Rot in the legal profession

Delhi High Court enjoys a distinct reputation among all High Courts of the country as far as the efficient functioning and the quality of the judgements are concerned. Most of the judges are reasonable, indulgent to patient hearing and judicious in handing down the verdicts.
Only yesterday i.e.21st August 2008 the bench of Justice Manmohan Sarin and Justice Madan B. Lokur of the Delhi High Court has delivered a judgment which has evoked strong reaction from the Bar Associations .So much so, that the Bar Associations have gone flash strike on this issue. The High Court has debarred two senior lawyers-Shri R.K. Anand and Shri I.U. Khan-from practising for four months and also imposed a token fine of Rs. 2000/- on each. The lawyers have been found guilty of serious misconduct unbecoming of any lawyer, much less of both the designated senior lawyers. It may be recalled that Shri R.K. Anand has been engaged as a defence lawyer by Nandas in high octane BMW case and Shri I.U. Khan was specially appointed the prosecution lawyer.

In a sting operation conducted by the NDTV, which is known as a serious news channel ,both lawyers were found to be in cahoots to get the matter decided in favour of the accused. It was a laudable exposé indeed by the news channel and the channel deserves kudos from all. The High Court took suo motto cognisance of the case and convicted both lawyers for the contempt of court by creating obstruction in the fair dispensation of justice.

The lawyers were given enough opportunity to prove their innocence but instead of that they blamed the news channel for committing the contempt of court. One lawyer Shri R.K. Anand went even to the extent of levelling the allegation on Justice Manmohan Sarin, who has now been appointed the chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, for nursing the bias against him.
The judgment has brought to the fore that some lawyers indulge into very nasty job of setting or manoeuvring the cases and thus do damage to the cause of justice, which often gets miscarried by their dirty deeds. If such practices are adopted by senior lawyers, what signal it sends to others, particularly among hard working young lawyers, can be any body’s imagination. This, undoubtedly, leads to cynicism and frustration among them. This judgement will give a strong message and therefore it should be welcome.

But another point is also involved here. In ‘Supreme Court Bar Association vs Union of India’, the Supreme Court has reviewed its own judgment which was given in the V.C. Mishra case. Just to recollect this case to it is necessary to tell that Shri V.C. Mishra was the chairman of the Bar Council of India and he was found guilty of the contempt of court by the High Court of Allahabad. It was confirmed by the Supreme Court of India and the Apex Court debarred him from practicing for three years. After some time the Supreme Court Bar Association filed a writ petition praying for the review of the earlier decision on the ground that the power to debar any advocate from practice vests only with the Bar Council and not with any court. The Apex Court admitted the writ and rectified its own verdict by ruling that only the Bar Council has got the power to mete out the punishment of debarring any advocate from practice.
Therefore, the question arises whether the High Court is within its jurisdiction to debar the lawyers from practicing or not. In all likelihood this case would go to the Supreme Court and hopefully, the law will be settled. Be that as it may, the decision of the Delhi’s Bar Associations to go on strike against the decision of the High Court is hasty and unwarranted. It would have been appropriate if the Bar Associations had started healthy debate on the jurisdiction of the courts in such matters, ethics and conduct of the Bar and the Bench and also about the ways and means to curb the rot that is eating into the vitals of the legal profession.