16 Nov 2021 3:43 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed with dismay that office bearers of the of the Bar Association of the Rajasthan High Court at Jaipur have not taken seriously the contempt notice issued to them for boycotting a bench of the High Court as part of a strike. On October 5, 2021, the Court had issued notice and had directed the the President, Secretary and the Office Bearers of the Bar...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed with dismay that office bearers of the of the Bar Association of the Rajasthan High Court at Jaipur have not taken seriously the contempt notice issued to them for boycotting a bench of the High Court as part of a strike. On October 5, 2021, the Court had issued notice and had directed the the President, Secretary and the Office Bearers of the Bar Association of High Court of Rajasthan at Jaipur to show cause why contempt proceedings may not be initiated against them.
On a later hearing date, the Supreme Court had observed that no bar association can put pressurize the Chief Justice to change the roster of a judge.
The issue relates to the Jaipur Bar Association's boycott of the court of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma. The resolution for the boycott was passed after the judge reportedly refused to give an urgent listing to a petition seeking protection for a lawyer. The association demanded that the roster be changed to remove criminal matters from the bench of Justice Sharma.
A Bench comprising Justices MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna remarked on Tuesday that it is unfortunate that no counter affidavit till date has been filed by the office bearers of the Bar Association who are in contempt.
"Despite the fact that the Office-bearers of the Bar Association, who are alleged to be in contempt are served long back and earlier also the matter was adjourned at their instance, it is very unfortunate that no counter has been filed till date", the Court observed.
Opining further that the office bearers had not given due credence to the contempt notice, the Bench remarked,
"There is no response in writing by the Office Bearers of the Bar Association. It appears prima facie that the Bar Association has not taken the matter very seriously."
However, the Bench provided 'one last chance' to the erring office bearers to submit their response and accordingly listed the matter for further hearing tomorrow i.e on November 17.
The Bench also took on record a detailed report submitted by the Registrar General of the Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur Bench pursuant to the Court's earlier order. Pursuant to a perusal of the report, the Bench remarked that the contents of the report are 'shocking'.
Contents of the report of the Registrar General
The report stated that on September 27, 2021 a Criminal Writ Petition was filed in Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur Bench by Shri Ravindra Kumar Paliwal, Advocate through his advocate Amit Jindal Advocate which was related to alleged dispute of Shri Paliwal with his neighbour. Thereafter on behalf of the petitioner, an oral request was made in the Court of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma to list this case on the same day i.e. on September 27, 2021. On such a request, the Judge directed the matter to be taken up as first case on September 28, 2021 but the concerned Advocate continued to forcefully insist for listing of the case on the same day and some other Advocates also joined this demand and started protesting by raising slogans.
On September 27, 2021 the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court was on leave. The High Court administration brought this matter to the notice of the Chief Justice whereupon the case was marked to some other High Court Judge and the matter was taken up on the same day and order was also passed. Though the case was taken up on the same day and order was also passed, the Rajasthan High Court Bar Association passed a resolution in the evening of September 27, 2021 to boycott the court of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma till his roster is not changed.
To remove the above impasse, a meeting of the Chief Justice and all Judges of Jaipur Bench was held on September 28, 2021 at 10.30 am. After discussing the matter, the office bearers of the High Court Bar Association were invited in the meeting at 11.30 am. The meeting with office bearers of the Bar Association continued till 12.30 pm. During this meeting, the High Court Bar Association made a request to constitute a committee of Judges to discuss the matter. On this request, the office bearers of the Association were asked to withdraw the resolution of boycott and thereafter their request will be considered.
Consequently, the office bearers of the Association asked for 15 minutes time. Till 1.00 pm when the office bearers did not turn up, the matter was again discussed by the Chief Justice and other Judges during lunch and a Committee of 6 Judges was constituted to discuss the matter with the High Court Bar Association to resolve the issue. After the conclusion of the meeting, all the Courts functioned in post lunch session from 2.00 pm and hearing of all the matters was conducted as usual.
The court of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma also had sitting in post lunch session but the office bearers of Bar Association and other Advocates assembled there and asked fellow Advocates to come out of the Court Room. On receiving the information that Advocates are raising slogans outside the court room of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma, the Registrar (Administration.) immediately went to the court room and found that the Advocates have shut down the door of the court room and were not allowing anybody to enter the court room. The Registrar subsequently entered the court and discovered that Justice Satish Kumar Sharma was sitting in the court room but no advocate was present. All Courts except the Court of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma functioned normally that day.
The report also highlighted that some media reports have wrongly reported that other Courtrooms did not function or stopped working due to this issue. The Rajasthan High Court administration had also issued Press Note in this regard.
The meeting of the above Committee of 6 Judges with the office bearers of Bar Association was convened on September 29, 2021 at 09.00 am which concluded on a positive note and thereafter, the Bar Association withdrew its earlier resolution of boycott of the court of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma.
In a related development, the Central Government today notified the transfer of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma to Madhya Pradesh High Court pursuant to a Supreme Court collegium recommendation made in October.
Supreme Court's contempt notice
The Supreme Court issued the show-cause notice for contempt to the Jaipur Bar Association in the case District Bar Association, Dehradun through its Secretary v. Ishwar Shandilya & Ors, in which it has taken suo motu cognizance of the trend of lawyers strikes. The bench had earlier sought the assistance of the Bar Council of India to address the issue.
The Bar Council of India later told the bench that after a meeting with the State Bar Councils, it is proposing to frame rules to curtail strikes by lawyers and court boycotts and to take action against bar associations who act in breach and against advocates who promote such strikes through social media.
On a subsequent hearing date, the bench said that it will pass a "detailed order" to deal with this issue. The bench also observed that it is considering setting up grievance redressal mechanism at local levels for lawyers so that their legitimate grievances can be addressed through a proper platform instead of resorting to strikes.
On February 28, 2020, the Supreme Court, taking a serious note of the fact that despite consistent decisions of the Court, the lawyers/Bar Associations go on strikes, had taken suo moto cognisance and issued notices to the Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils to suggest the further course of action and to give concrete suggestions to deal with the problem of strikes/abstaining the work by the lawyers.
The suo motu action of the Court came while dismissing an appeal filed by the District Bar Association Dehradun against a judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court which declared the lawyers strikes illegal.
Case Title: District Bar Association Dehradun v. Ishwar Shandilya and Ors
Click Here To Read/Download Order