14 Dec 2022 11:59 AM GMT
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, sternly asked the Odisha Government and the police authorities in the State not to 'mollycoddle' the lawyers who have indulged in vandalism in court premises during their strike demanding formation of new Benches of the Orissa High Court. The Apex Court said that it would not let the litigants' interest be sacrificed at the altar of such unruly strikes by...
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, sternly asked the Odisha Government and the police authorities in the State not to 'mollycoddle' the lawyers who have indulged in vandalism in court premises during their strike demanding formation of new Benches of the Orissa High Court. The Apex Court said that it would not let the litigants' interest be sacrificed at the altar of such unruly strikes by lawyers. The Court endeavoured to remind the advocates that their duty is to assist the litigants in attaining justice and not act as an impediment to their cause.
"We must impress upon the legal fraternity that the privilege to have a license of a lawyer is to use it responsibly...The disruption of normal functioning affects the litigants. We are saying so in the general context not with respect to the incident...."
The Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka was hearing the plea, inter alia, about lawyers' strike in Odisha, demanding a new High Court bench at Sambalpur. On the last date of hearing, the Supreme Court passed orders to the State Government of Odisha and the State Police to take stringent actions against lawyers who indulged in vandalism in court premises during their strike. It further directed the State Government and DGP, including the Police Officer In-Charge of the Sambalpur District, to be present before the court today through video-conferencing, explaining what steps have been taken against the protesting lawyers.
The Bench reiterated the demand for taking strict action against the lawyers who have indulged in vandalising the Court premises. It accepted the suggestion that all the officer bearers of all the Bar Associations who had participated in the strike and indulged in violence would be issued contempt notices.
The act of burning effigies and browbeating the Advocate General,members of Bar Council of India and members of Bar Council of the State was strongly condemned by the Bench. It further expressed displeasure that the strike had disrupted the traffic flow in the area. The Bench was of the view that if such rowdy behaviour was displayed by the 'striking lawyers', the police should have 'affected preventive arrest and they should have been kept in custody for some time, at least'.
"They don't deserve any indulgence, much less as lawyers they have lost the privilege of being an advocate…We have put the burden on the police authorities, which is their function, to treat criminals like criminals and must be brought to book under relevant provision of IPC", the Bench categorically recorded in the order.
The Counsel appearing for the Bar Association of Sambalpur submitted that some of the members who have been arrested were not participating in the strike. Considering the same, the Bench noted that the Bar Council of India would look into the same.
"We think they are getting what they deserve. If they have not participated we leave it to the BCI. Such an extreme action was called for because of the action of the lawyers."
The Counsel requested if the bail applications of the lawyers who have been arrested can be expeditiously heard. Refusing to indulge such prayers, the Bench observed -
"A request is made that their bail applications be considered as per law. Our view is that every court acts as per law and there is no need to show any indulgence to these lawyers."
The Bench was also bemused by the inefficiency of the police in tackling the law and order situation, particularly, when the lawyers entered the court premises and caused destruction.
Justice Kaul said, "Is this how you control law and order?..If you cannot control it we will record it and we will get paramilitary force…This is an utter failure of the police authorities."
Justice Oka asked the DGP, Odisha who appeared before the Bench virtually, "Have you seen the video? According to you no offence was committed?"
The DGP apprised the Bench that three FIRs had been registered on the very same day of the incident.The BCI has informed it that 43 lawyers have already been suspended and it is an ongoing process.
Thereafter, Justice Oka asked a pointed question to the DGP and the State Counsel, "Whether courts are functioning?"
The Advocate General for the State of Odisha informed the Bench that the judicial officers are able to access the Court without facing any obstacle.
Justice Oka reiterated, "We are asking if the lawyers are appearing. That is most important."
The Advocate General candidly confessed that very few lawyers are appearing in Courts.
The Bench recorded in its order that peace and functionality of the Courts in Odisha ought to be ensured by the police. The police authorities were asked to extend protection to lawyers who are willing to appear before the Courts, so that they can do so without any difficulty.
"There is a report of DGP on the events that took place on 12.12.2022 at Sambalpur and the action taken in pursuant to the same. Let us say, it is the police's job to control law and order. They do not need any directions from us about what to do. Suffice to say what we have stated above is that complete peace and functionality of the courts have to be maintained, not only for the protection of judicial officers but also lawyers who are willing to enter the court are able to do so."
The Bench added -
"We have indicated to the police authorities that their ability to control the position will be closely watched by us, in the ongoing proceedings."
The Bench was also informed that senior members of the Bar Council of India are getting threats from 'striking lawyers'. It directed that the security concerns of such officers should be looked into by the police authorities in the State of Odisha. Bihar Police was also directed to provide security to the family of one of the members of Bar Council, living in the State of Bihar. The Commissioner of Delhi Police was also asked to make necessary security arrangements as and when meetings are to be held at the Bar Council of India's office in Delhi.
The BCI informed the Court that 41 lawyers have been suspended for the acts of vandalism, following the orders of the Court.
The matter is to be next listed on 6th February, 2023.
[Case Title: M/s. PLR Projects Pvt. Ltd. v. Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd. And Ors. Diary No. 33859/2022]
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