'Every Day, Lawyers Are Asking For Physical Hearings To Be Resumed': Sr Adv Dushyant Dave Tells SC
At the hearing before Supreme Court pertaining to Yatin Oza's plea challenging the Gujarat High Court's decision stripping him off his Senior designation, issues that lawyers have been facing due to the Coronavirus induced pandemic were brought to light at the Top Court today.
Before a bench led by Justice SK Kaul, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave said that Oza must be forgiven, now that he has tendered an unconditional apology. Adding that Oza's anguish stemmed out of the issues being faced by lawyers at the bar and the losses they had suffered due to the limited functioning of courts, Dave said that the situation of lawyers is indeed in dire straits.
Dave: "I have lawyers come up to me every other day, begging for money - sometimes for basic necessities, sometimes for hospital admissions. I feel so ashamed. We do not get any assistance from the Bar Council of India or from the government as professionals. A lawyer had to take up work as a delivery boy. Physical hearings must be resumed at the earliest and employment opportunities are the need of hour"
Dave was not appearing in the case of Oza but was waiting for the next case; the bench heard him after he said that Gujarat HC was his 'parent High Court' too.
Dave, who also happens to be the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, referred to Oza's stand that over 700 junior lawyers were suffering financial crisis due to the Gujarat HC's limited functioning. Oza had also stated in his letter that due to limited functioning of the Courts, a lawyer had to take up work as a delivery boy to make ends meet.
17-time President of the Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association, Senior Advocate Yatin Oza had tendered his resignation letter, following differences among the Office bearers of the Association regarding re-opening of the courts for physical hearing.
"I have decided to resign from the post of President, which I hereby do. I will seek a fresh mandate only on one issue, 'as to whether the court should function physical or virtual'. I will never betray the faith and confidence of my electorate, when 64% members of the bar want physical functioning of the court," the letter of resignation stated. Later, he withdrew the resignation.
Dave pointed out in this respect that even though Oza's statements against the registry were not justified, his anguish was, due to the plight of his fellow bar colleagues.
Dave: "There is a need to resume physical courts. We do not get grants by the Government. The lower courts are not functioning. They look to your Lordships VC hearings as a model during these trying times. Every day, lawyers are asking for physical hearings to be resumed"
Justice Kaul: These are trying times, everyone is going through a very difficult time and not just the legal community. There are many people who are currently only getting 20 per cent of their salaries.
Justice Kaul further submitted that solutions were required to be worked out for the betterment of system and resignation was not the way to move forward. "Systems can be groomed. Imputations must not be made" he said.
In May, the GHCAA had held a Referendum for ascertaining whether the Members of the Bar wished for physical functioning of the court or virtual functioning of the court. In this referendum 800 members participated and almost 64% of the Members of the Bar expressed their desire that the court should function physically, while 36% expressed their desire for the virtual functioning of the court.
Accordingly, the Association had requested the Chief Justice to re-open courts for physical hearings, while also citing severe hardships being faced by the lawyers.
"I am completely against hearings through video conferencing. The court should start functioning normally as before. I will keep raising the issue for the benefit of junior lawyers who cannot be left struggling to make two ends meet and starve" Oza had stated.
Later, the HC initiated contempt proceedings against Oza over his remarks that the HC Registry was indulging in corrupt practices. He senior designation was also withdrawn, against which he approached the SC.
Today, Oza offered to tender an unconditional apology to the HC for his remarks.
Incidentally, the Gujarat State Bar Council passed a resolution allowing advocates to take up other jobs till December on account of the COVID-19 scenario, and submitted the proposal for the sanction of Bar Council of India.