The Karnataka High Court on Monday said it is the duty of the Members of the Bar, to ensure that functioning of the court is not affected in any manner. If the said functioning is affected it is the common man who suffers.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj was hearing the suo-motu contempt proceedings initiated against officer bearers of Bar Associations in the state who gave a call to its members for abstaining from court work. The Court has directed them to file a statement on oath tendering apology and giving undertaking that they would not violate the law laid down by Apex court, by April 22,
As per a report submitted by the registry to the court, the District Mandya Bar Association abstained from court work on Jan 4, 2021. The Bar Association at Maddur gave a call to abstaining from court work on January 4 and February 6. The Bar Association at Srirangapatna, Malavalli, Krishnarajpete, abstained from court work on January 4. The Bar Association at Pandavapura, abstained from court work on 4, 15 and 30 January. The bar association at Davanagere abstained from work on January 29 and February 8.
During the hearing the bench orally told the counsel appearing for the officer bears of Bar association, "This is not a litigation that somebody should be sent to jail. If law is clearly laid down that advocates should not take recourse to boycott of courts and in difficult circumstances you cannot do that. All that we want is assurance from you that you will abide by the law."
It added "With great difficulty we are running the courts and then lawyers at the drop of their hats are boycotting the courts. This is not permissible, just see the law laid down."
The counsel then submitted that "We will definitely follow the law." He added that members of the bar association had written to the Principal District Judge, Mandya district, informing them that they wanted to protest as one of the brother advocates had been brutally murdered. They did not intend to boycott the court.
To which bench noted "If some lawyer gets hurt because he has appeared in a matter that is a different thing. Basically whatever may be the cause, law laid down by the Supreme Court, does not permit this at all. We are not happy to bring lawyers here."
The court then asked the counsel "If advocates boycott the courts, who suffer, you tell us?"
He replied by saying "Advocates and Litigants."
The bench corrected him by saying "Litigants suffer, we are here for the sake of litigants and why should litigants suffer?"
It added "Do you understand how much common man's money is invested in the functioning of the court? Someday this analysis needs to be made, how much money is spent on one day's courts working. If one day the court sits idle, who is at the loss, ultimately it is the common man's money."
The court also observed "Ultimately what we want to impress upon you (counsel for respondents), see now numbers (covid-19 cases) are rising, why are we working? The reason is we work for common man and ultimately we have to think about it that the common man is going to feel. As it is, there are number of holidays for the court and on remaining working days at the drop of the hat if you are going to keep the court closed, we are sending a wrong signal to the common man."
It added "Unless members of the bar don't cooperate, courts will not function but we are on the enormous damage done to the society at large, to litigants."
The counsel for the respondents then said "As far as Mandya is concerned there are very revolutionary people, milord. They (advocates) have participated in Cauvery water protest Number of advocates have faced FIR."
The court responded by saying "In fact the members of the Bar played a leading role in the freedom struggle. That's not the question. If lawyers are activist their activism should continue outside the court that will be most welcome. Lawyers contributing to the society, lawyers raising important legal and constitutional issues.. that is most welcome. But it should not affect the court functioning."
In its order the court noted "Everyone will appreciate the very proactive role played by members of the bar from helping the society at large, it is their duty to ensure that functioning of the court is not affected in any manner as if the said functioning is affected it is the common man who suffers."
The court also recorded the submission made by Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi that if members of the bar who are respondents in contempt petition express regret and agree to abide by the law the proceedings can be dropped.
It accordingly noted in its order "In fact clause 2 of the order dated March 12, records that the purpose of initiating suo-motu contempt proceedings against officer bearers of the bar association is not to penalize anyone but to ensure that the law laid down by the apex court is respected and implemented by members of the bar."
The matter will be next heard on April 22.