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‘Cheap publicity’: Supreme Court chides lawyers for putting pressure on judiciary

In a hard-hitting judgement a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran said it has become “very common” for advocates to go to the press and criticize judges.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2019 22:16 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
 Supreme Court,Arun Mishra,Vineet Saran
Supreme Court judgement also said that it was not advisable to wash dirty linen in public and enter into accusation or debates.(PTI/Representative Image)

The Supreme Court has lashed out at lawyers who, for “cheap publicity”, make personal attacks at judges and attribute political motives to their judgments, and said this behaviour denigrates the judiciary and amounts to the gravest form of contempt.

In a hard-hitting judgement delivered when a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran said it had become “very common” for advocates to go to the press and criticise judges.

This has no rationale, they added, pointing out that “the very independence” of the judicial system is under threat when people resort to “unscrupulous means” and create pressure.

The judges warned against the media trial of cases.

Authored by justice Mishra, the judgement also said that it was not advisable to “wash dirty linen in public and enter into accusation or debates.”

These tactics are aimed at influencing judgements, even denying justice, with ulterior motives, the judges said.

The lawyers who attribute political colour to judgements think they are above the bar council, which is a disciplinary body for lawyers, the court said. It also came down heavily on the bar councils for not discharging their “statutory duties” effectively and said state high courts should entertain petition against advocates for indiscipline in case the bar council fails to take appropriate action.

The Supreme Court order came even as it struck down the Madras high court ‘s rules for lawyers.

The high court, in 2016, framed the new disciplinary rules under which advocates could be disbarred if they were found abusing or putting pressure on a judge, spreading unfounded allegations against a judge, or appearing drunk in court. The rules permitted high court and trial court judges to initiate action against erring advocates, even disbar them.

The rules were introduced after numerous instances of misbehaviour by advocates within the premises of the Madras high court in 2015.

The Supreme Court said that in case of a genuine grievance against any judge, the appropriate process is to lodge a complaint with the concerned higher authorities and not malign the system.

“Judges who are attacked are not supposed to go to press or media to ventilate their point of view. Contempt of court has to be used sparingly”, the court said. However, it does not mean the court has a “fear of taking action and its repercussions.”

Referring to the statutory rules, the court said advocates are barred from advertising. Therefore, going to the press and putting out “distorted versions” is “sheer misconduct” and “contempt of court.”

Such press briefings make it more difficult to render justice in a fearless and impartial manner, the court added.

Bar Council of India chairman Manan Kumar Mishra welcomed the quashing of the rules made by the Madras high court to regulate the conduct of advocates.

He said: “The entire bar welcomes the judgment. In fact, there was encroachment of rights and privileges by various high courts and it has rightly been struck down by the Supreme Court,” said Mishra.

“The suggestions and advice given by the court will be seen in the right light and the Bar Council of India will bring in amendments to its existing rules governing the conduct of advocates,” he said.

First Published: Jan 30, 2019 22:16 IST