"An Advocate shall, at all times, comfort himself in a manner befitting his status as an Officer of the Court, a privileged member of the community; and a gentleman, bearing in mind that what may be lawful and moral for a person who is not a member of the Bar, or for a member of the Bar in his professional capacity may still be improper for an advocate," this is the quotation from relevant rules prescribing "standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette" which Disciplinary Committee of Bar Council of Tamil Nadu chose to go with while holding two advocates and blood brothers R Chinthathirai Arockiam Selvi and Esthov Antony Ashok liable for serious misconduct warranting a serious punishment in eyes of the Bar and accordingly removed them off the Rolls of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and consequently debarred them from law practice in any court of law or Tribunal or Quasi-Judicial Tribunal within the territory of India.
Disciplinary Committee of Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry awarded this punishment while acting on a complaint against the two advocates forwarded to it by the Additional Registrar General, Madurai Bench of Madras High Court.
Basis of Complaint
Thiru. R. Chinthathirai Arockiam Selvin is a Marine Engineer and an advocate. He had filed a criminal original petition before the Madurai Bench asking for direction to the opposite party to register his complaint under certain provisions of Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018 and for the same he had engaged Esthov Antony Ashok, his brother, as his counsel. When the matter came up for hearing, despite Esthov's presence, Selvin addressed the court in black robes.
Enquiry by court later revealed Selvin was acting in dual capacity of a marine engineer and lawyer to which Selvin's rebuttal was that he can address the court from the table of Advocates whenever he is not in the sea performing his functions as a marine engineer.
High Court took strong exceptions to this stand and directed Registry to lodge a complaint with Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for appropriate action.
"The Advocates Act, 1961 does not permit an enrolled advocate to profess dual profession. When there is a specific bar under the Advocates Act, 1961 and Bar Council Rules, that a person, who got enrolled in the Bar council, cannot take up any other profession or employment without suspending his practice has the audacity to plead that he can take up Marine job and continue as an advocate and address the Court in robes. lt will be detrimental to the Noble Profession."
Court also said that petitioner Selvin committed not a misrepresentation simpliciter but a fraud on the court by filing complaint on a grievance which was already taken note of and secondly by filing it under the law which had not yet come into force.
It also says that Selvin by employing his brother as counsel has gone against the rules and same amounts to misconduct within the meaning of the Bar Council of India Rules.
Counter Affidavit by Respondents'
Bar Council says that instead of respondents Selvin and Esthov tendering unconditional apology over their misconduct, they have come out with statements in the form of counter affidavit making serious allegations, left and right, against the concerned judge which adds to the case against them.
On the other hand, Esthov Ashok, in his counter affidavit has justified stand of his brother engaging him as counsel saying former has every right under Article 22(1) of the Constitution to engage a counsel of his choice. He has further stated in his affidavit that an "Advocate is not liable for Judicial Misconduct of the Judge" and that he has prima facie case that Justice G. Jeyachandran has committed the "Judicial Misconduct", in the disposal of both criminal petitions before him.
He further states in his counter affidavit that while he was rightly pleading his client's case, Justice G. Jeyachandran acted as an advocate for the other side and tried his level best to prevent his argument, but despite that he continued his argument.
He further says that he acted in accordance with Section 11 of Chapter II part Vl which deals with "Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette" of the Bar Council of India rules and runs as "An Advocate shall not be servile and whenever there is proper ground for serious complaint against a Judicial Officer. it shall be his right and duty to submit his grievance to proper authorities" and accordingly lodged complaints with the appropriate authorities to initiate in-house inquiry against Justice G. Jeyachandran.
Esthov further alleges that Justice Jeyachandran lost his temper and made unwanted comments against him in the open court, which disparaged his name among the legal fraternity and in that regard he sought unedited video footage of the Court proceedings to unmask the malafide intention of the presiding officer of the Court.
He also says that nature of his client's profession is on contract basis, not a permanent one. That his client will inform the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, before he regains the permanent Marine Engineer Profession to suspend his Advocate license.
Counter affidavit by Selvin accuses Justice Jeyachandran of corruption and says that corruption in judiciary has to be eliminated in accordance with the law. He further states that he is not presently a full time employee and because of Justice Jeyachandran he has suffered mental agony and pain.
Charges against the advocates'
Bar framed charges of grave misconduct against both and charged Esthov with contempt by making serious defamatory allegations against the concerned judge. It said that both the respondents without letting any evidence or defending themselves, have committed further contempt by filing a detailed counter affidavit independently.
Discussion on Judges' and Advocates'
Interestingly Disciplinary Committee of the Bar while awarding punishment to advocates' found it convenient to discuss position of judges' in present scenario and here are the relevant excerpts':
"We feel that Judge now-a-days is well protected physically with the help of police force but not mentally because of the unpredictable and magical advancement of the scientific technologies padicularly Facebook and Whatsapp. A Judge, the moment passes any public-oriented sensitive order, immediately he is being subjected to criticism and debate in social media. One order passed by a court becomes hundred orders because of various mischievous interpretations given by social media. The personal conduct of the Hon'ble Judge also is being touched either directly or indirectly.
Though the judiciary is independent, the Hon'ble Judge is driven to a small circle to keep themselves away from any controversy and criticism. The society often forgets that the Hon'ble Judges also are made up of flesh and blood and they also have heart and family. In the name of freedom of speech, and transparency forgetting the fundamental fact that their judgment is judgment and is questionable only in the appellate forum they are being criticized.
Each and everyone has to realize that if the Hon'ble Judges are not allowed to discharge their duties free from criticism and pressure, the loss is not to them but only to society. Right or wrong, the judicial order is subject to challenge only in the appellate forum and not in the social media. Any criticism in the social media would definitely damage the independence of judiciary and the same would definitely cause adverse impact in the society.
Every advocate has to realize that by criticizing the Court, we choose to criticize ourselves and cut sorry figure in the public. !f the advocates have any grievance they have to resort to the legal remedy available to the them in the manner known to law as in the largest democracy no problem is left without any legal remedy."
Bar quoted Justice D.Y.Chandrachud in K.S.Puttaswamy V. Union of lndia AIR 2017 SC that "the Constitutional Vision seeks the realization of Justice ((Social, economic and political); liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship); equality (as a guarantee against arbitrary treatment of individuals) and fraternity (which assures a life of dignity to every individual). These constitutional points exist in unity to facilitate a humane and compassionate society.[Read Order]