Justice GS Patel of the Bombay High Court refused to allow the state government to discontinue an advocate’s services from a 45-year-old suit that he has been appearing in since 2016.
Government Pleader Poornima Kantharia informed the court that Advocate Amar Mishra’s name was not included in the revised list of Additional Government Pleaders (AGP) notified by the state recently and, therefore, he would not be appearing in the matter any longer.
Justice Patel lamented at this decision of the government and sought to explain the complications in the suit that Mishra has been appearing for since 2016. He said-
“Ordinarily, it is not for me to interfere with how any litigant before the Court chooses to arrange his or its affairs, including legal representation. But this is an unusual case with quite extraordinary circumstances, in more ways than one. To begin with, this is a very old suit of 1973 and it is as yet and even now at the stage of a trial. While at one level it is apparently a simple suit for a declaration of title to land and possession and other reliefs, the reality is far more complicated. The suit is tagged along with large number of land acquisition matters. The property in question is enormous by any standards. What is at stake here is over 3,000 acres of land in Village Vikhroli and over which the 1st Defendant, Godrej & Boyce claims to have ownership rights. This is the contest between the parties and it is by no means an easy task to navigate this record. There are documents before me and which a Court has yet to examine in detail at the final hearing, that go back nearly two centuries. The originating document is of 1835.”
Justice Patel further noted the sincerity with which Amar Mishra had been attending to the case.
“Mr Mishra has been engaged in and attending to this matter since 2016, well before it was first listed before me.
When the cross-examination actually began, Mr Mishra was present and it has been evident to me from the very first day the cross-examination began that it is Mr Mishra who is fully immersed in the matter. He has ably assisted cross-examining counsel Mr Bhanage.
It is on account of an application made today that I am constrained to observe that Mr Bhanage, Mr Mishra and their team have addressed themselves to this matter with a singular focus and fixity of purpose, rare by any standards. One might expect this in a private contest. But even appearing on a Government brief, there has never once been an indication that any of them have taken the matter lightly or casually in any aspect.
It is, therefore, extremely regrettable and most unfortunate that the Government should have taken this approach. I do not know and I am not concerned with any other matter nor am I requiring the Government to place Mr Mishra on the panel again. I am not making any statement as to the terms of his engagement. I am only noting that Mr Mishra has rendered more than adequate service and assistance not only the Government but to the Court as well and that is something I am not willing to so readily forego.”
The court finally stated that Mishra would continue as the briefed counsel in the matter until its final disposal at the trial stage as allowing the government to withdraw Mishra’s services would mean allowing withdrawal of Mishra’s assistance to the court.