SC gives stern warning to AOR for lending name for petty amount; Court to examine conduct for one year

SC gives stern warning to AOR for lending name for petty amount; Court to examine conduct for one year

In a suo motu contempt proceedings [Suo Motu Contempt Petition No: 312 of 2013] initiated against Advocate on Record (AOR), Rameshwar Prasad Goyal, the Apex Court has come down heavily on the practise of AORs’ lending signature for petty amounts.

In the instant case, Goyal filed an application for restoration of an appeal which was earlier dismissed by the Court, as none appeared to press the appeal. The Court was of the view that the facts contained in the restoration application were not correct and the counsel appearing for the applicant was not able to clarify the same. The Court passed over the matter and asked the counsel appearing to call the AOR, Goyal, who would be able to explain the factual controversy. Goyal never turned up before the Court to explain the facts. It was pointed out that Goyal had filed extremely large number of cases in the Supreme Court but never appeared in the Court. In view of the refusal of the AOR to come to the Court, the Court dismissed the application and issued a show cause notice to Goyal, as to why his name should not be removed from the register of Advocates-On-Record.

In response to the same, Goyal had filed his reply tendering an absolute and unconditional apology and gave an undertaking that he would not repeat such a mistake again in future. He had also given many reasons for not appearing in the Court but none of them had impressed the Court.

A Bench of Justices Dr. B S Chauhan and S A Bobde said,” In a system, as revealed in the instant case, a half baked lawyer accepts the brief from a client coming from a far distance, prepares the petition and asks an AOR, having no liability towards the case, to lend his signatures for a petty amount. The AOR happily accepts this unholy advance and obliges the lawyer who has approached him without any further responsibility. The AOR does not know the client, has no attachment to the case and no emotional sentiments towards the poor cheated clients. Such an attitude tantamounts to cruelty in the most crude form towards the innocent litigant. In our humble opinion, conduct of such AOR is certainly unbecoming of an AOR.”

The Bench added, “An AOR, whom the litigant has never briefed or engaged, has lended his signature for a petty amount with a clear understanding that he would not take any responsibility for any act in any of the proceedings in the Registry or the Court in the matter. The Advocate who has been obliged by such an AOR must be going inside the Registry in an unauthorised manner and must be appearing in the Court directly or engaging a senior advocate without any knowledge/authorisation of the AOR. It is beyond our imagination what could be more devastating and degrading for the institution of AsOR. Even a few of them indulging in such an obnoxious practice spoils the working of this court, without realising that Bench and Bar, both have to give strict adherence to moral code.”

The Bench also observed, “The multi-tier operation of one lawyer hauling a client and then acting as a facilitator for some other lawyer to draw proceedings or engage another lawyer for arguing a case is definitely an unchartered and unofficial system which cannot be accepted as in essence, it tantamounts to a trap for litigants which is neither ethically nor professionally a sound practice. Such conduct is ridiculously low from what is expected of a lawyer.”

Since Goyal tendered absolute and unconditional apology; promised not to repeat the misconduct in future; assured the court that he would remain present in the court in all the cases where he had entered appearance for either of the parties; and on request of some senior members of the Bar to pardon him; the Court decided not to remove his name from the list of Advocates-On-Record.

The Bench observed, “Though the conduct of Shri Goyal, AOR, has been reprehensible and not worth pardoning but considering the fact and circumstances involved herein, his conduct is censured and we warn him not to behave in future in such manner and to appear in court in all the cases wherever he has entered appearance. The court shall examine his conduct for one year from now and if no improvement is found, may initiate the proceedings again. With these observations, the matter stands closed for the time being.”

Throughout the judgement, the Court has severely criticised the present day system of legal practice existing in the Supreme Court.  The author of the judgement, Justice B S Chuhan himself was an AOR in the Supreme Court before his elevation.

The Court had also requested the Association of Advocates-On-Record to assist the Court in the matter. The Association gave certain suggestions to check activities of such unscrupulous Advocates-On-Record in the Court and Registry but as those suggestions had earlier been forwarded to the Supreme Court Rules Committee, the Court did not issue any direction in this regard.