President of the Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association, Advocate Yatin Oza, who was recently stripped of his senior designation, has moved the Supreme Court stating that the HC decision is violative of his fundamentals right under Article 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution.
He has submitted that the procedure followed by the High Court, particularly when proceedings were initiated against him by the Court itself and that too on the ground of having made unfounded allegations against the functioning of the Registry, has "extinguished" his chance to defend himself.
"There has never been a case of divesting the designation for criticising the Registry of the High Court. The same amounts to chilling effect on free speech," the plea states.
Last month, the Full Court of the Gujarat High Court decided to review and recall the decision taken on October 25, 1999 to designate Oza as Senior Advocate.
Gujarat HC Takes Away Senior Designation Of GHCAA President Yatin Oza
The decision was taken under Rule 26 of the High Court of Gujarat (Designation of Senior Advocates) Rules 2018, which states "In the event a Senior Advocate is found guilty of conduct which according to the Full Court disentitles the Senior Advocate concerned to be worthy of the designation, the Full Court may review its decision to designate the person concerned and recall the same".
Oza, through Advocate Purvish Jitendra Malkan has submitted that the High Court has failed to lay down the procedure for divesting the designation, as there is no point system to analyse the guilt of conduct, and the same is wholly "vague" and manifestly "arbitrary".
"Such unfettered power, where the designation given after such elaborate process can be taken away has to be coupled with checks and balances, and there are none such in Rule 26, which provides full power and authority to Full Court (Chamber). A person accused of guilty of conduct based on the Contempt Proceedings surely cannot be divested first and asked to defend the original contempt proceedings when divesting proceedings are already completed," he has submitted.
It is stated that there was not even a "pre-committee examination" before placing before the Full Court, which decided to take away his designation.
It is contended that such actions directly impact the practice of the law and have a chilling effect on the free speech, whereby the defects of the legal system whereby the lawyers are affected can be silenced.
"No Senior designation Advocate would take on the system and point out the loopholes if such is the response by the system. Hence there needs to be committee prior to the decision of the Full Court (Chamber), just like there is one before designation," he states.
He has contended that the use of phrase "guilty of conduct" in Rule 26 "presupposes and leads to the conclusion that there needs to be a committee which can give finding of guilty and naturally such committee would afford hearing to the person charged with the allegation."
Oza was stripped of his designation for making critical remarks against the HC Registry. During a live conference on Facebook last month, attended by various journalists, Oza levelled the following allegations against the High Court and its Registry:
corrupt practices being adopted by the registry of the High Court of Gujarat;
Taking strong exception to such "irresponsible, sensational and intemperate" remarks, the HC had observed that Oza had, with frivolous grounds and unverified facts, targeted the HC Registry and had questioned the very credibility of High Court Administration.
In his plea Oza has stated that he keeps the Court in the highest regard and it was not his intention whatsoever to scandalise or lower the authority of the Court in any manner whatsoever. He has also tendered an apology for the 'unwarranted' mode and manner of voicing his grievances.
He has directly approached the Supreme Court stating that since the full Court of the High Court of Gujarat has participated in the impugned decision, challenging the same before the High Court would not be a correct course.
He has sought that the Full Court notification taking away his designation be set aside and Rule 26 of the HC Rules be declared as ultra vires.