Whether Court Can Disallow Party-In-Person To Argue Case Under Its Discretionary Power?: Uttarakhand High Court Answers

Update: 2021-09-28 11:48 GMT

The Uttarakhand High Court recently deliberated and ruled on the issue as to whether it is well within the discretionary power of the Court to allow, or not to allow a party-in-person to argue before the Court. Importantly, the Court was hearing a plea filed by Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient Whistleblower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi. The Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh...

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The Uttarakhand High Court recently deliberated and ruled on the issue as to whether it is well within the discretionary power of the Court to allow, or not to allow a party-in-person to argue before the Court. Importantly, the Court was hearing a plea filed by Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient Whistleblower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi.

The Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma held that it is a discretion vested by the Advocates Act on the Court to permit, or not to permit a party to appear in person, and to argue the case.

Analysis

At the outset, the Court referred to Section 33 of the Advocates Act [Advocates alone entitled to practise] to conclude that no person can be said to be entitled to practise in any Court, unless he is enrolled as an advocate under this Act.

However, the Court further referred to Section 32 of the Act [Power of court to permit appearances in particular cases] to hold that the Court has been bestowed with the discretionary power to permit, or not to permit such a person, who is not enrolled as an Advocate, to appear before it.

The Court further referred to Rule 13 of the Uttarakhand Party-in-Person Rules, 2020 which bestows a discretionary power on the Court to permit, or not to permit a party to appear in person, and to argue his, or her case.

Lastly, relying on Apex Court's ruling in the case of Goa Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Limited v. R.K. Chawla and 9 another [(2011) 15 SCC 449, the Court came to the conclusion that it is not the right of a person, other than an enrolled Advocate, to appear and argue before the Court, but it is a discretion vested by the Act on the Court to permit, or not to permit a party to appear in person, and to argue the case.

The matter before the Court

Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient Whistleblower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, who filed a petition through a counsel, appeared in person before this Court and claimed he had no faith in any of the counsel of the Uttarakhand High Court and therefore, he would not like any counsel to be appointed by the Court to assist the Court on his behalf.

To this, the Court observed thus:

"It is, indeed, saddening to note that a litigant claims that "he has no faith in the members of the Bar". But, perhaps, this is a misplaced impression in the mind of Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi. For, there is no dearth of honest and hardworking lawyers in the Bar. But, a litigant must have faith before he engages the service of a counsel. The impression carried out by Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi may not be in an individual one, but, undoubtedly, may be a general one. Such an impression should merely force the learned members of the Bar, and the learned members of the legal fraternity to do a bit of introspection."

Now, having clarified that it is the discretion of the court to allow (or disallow) a person to argue his/her case as a party in person, the Court now considered the question as to whether Sanjiv Chaturvedi should be permitted to argue his case in person, or not.

In his affidavit, Chaturvedi argued that he had been waging a one-man's war against corrupt officers and officers who are in high posts, and therefore, repeatedly, he and his advocates have been entangled in needless controversies by those who are in power.

Therefore, he stated that he would not like to drag any counsel through the obstacle courses created by persons in power, and hence, he would prefer to argue his own case and to risk his own life.

In response to this, the Court observed thus:

"A bare perusal of the record of this case clearly reveals that Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi is, indeed, faced with an uphill task, as he has acted as a whistleblower on many occasions. Prima facie, it also reveals that Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi is embroiled in large number of controversies, which he has been trying to clarify and resolve in his favour before many fora. Many of the observations made by different fora are, indeed, in favour of Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi. His knowledge of law, his erudite arguments, his critical analysis of the law and the facts has been lauded by a few legal fora. Thus, clearly, Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi is in a position to argue both on facts and law in the present case."

With this, the Court concluded that Chaturvedi should be permitted to appear in-person, and to argue his case.

Case title - Sanjiv Chaturvedi and Union of India and others.

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