Since the videoconferencing proceedings started in March this year, lawyers across high courts too have been caught eating food and appearing casual dressed, lying on the bed, and even chewing(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
Since the videoconferencing proceedings started in March this year, lawyers across high courts too have been caught eating food and appearing casual dressed, lying on the bed, and even chewing(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

SC angered after man appears shirtless during online hearing

The incident happened in the Supreme Court virtual courtroom presided over by justice LN Rao. The judge was hearing a suo moto {of its own accord} petition on the condition of Child Care Homes during the pandemic.
By Abraham Thomas | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 02, 2020 05:33 AM IST

Upset by a bare-chested lawyer adjusting the camera during a hearing by videoconferencing on Tuesday, the Supreme Court remarked that lawyers cannot afford to be so reckless because it has already been eight months since the apex court has been hearing cases in the virtual mode amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The incident happened in the Supreme Court virtual courtroom presided over by justice LN Rao. The judge was hearing a suo moto {of its own accord} petition on the condition of Child Care Homes during the pandemic when suddenly an image flashed on the screen of a bare-chested person adjusting the camera of the standing counsel for the Kerala government, G Prakash.

The bench called out to the lawyer appearing on the screen, “Someone is standing beside you who is shirtless.” There was no response from the other end and the next moment, the link with the lawyer could not be established. The bare-chested person was also a lawyer, ML Jishnu, who is related to Prakash.

Upset by the behaviour of the lawyer in question, the bench, also comprising justice Hemant Gupta ,said: “Even after seven to eight months of telling lawyers to be careful during videoconferencing, you (advocates) are so reckless.”

“I was not able to hear or see the courtroom. Before the hearing started, the link was connected but later it disappeared. It was during that time somebody was helping to fix the system for me. But I was fully dressed up in my advocate robe and because my device faced technical glitch I was unable to hear or see what happened in the court,” Prakash told HT.

This is the second instance in two months of a lawyer appearing without a shirt during a virtual hearing at the Supreme Court. On October 27, another lawyer appeared shirtless during the hearing of a case before a bench presided over by justice DY Chandrachud. The judge had then remarked, “Some decorum has to be maintained by lawyers while appearing before us. Caution must be taken in future.” Even solicitor general Tushar Mehta called the behaviour “unpardonable”.

The lawyer who was involved then was MS Suvidutt who wrote to th solicitor general snd the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association president that he was attending the Vidyarambam (initiation of education) ceremony of his niece with his camera off. He expressed regret and apology for his inadvertent act.

Since the videoconferencing proceedings started in March this year, lawyers across high courts too have been caught eating food and appearing casual dressed, lying on the bed, and even chewing gutka.

In May this year, the Supreme Court secretary general Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar issued a notification allowing lawyers to shun their long robes and coats while appearing before the court through videoconferencing. The notification said, “The advocates may wear plain white-shirt/white-salwar-kameez/white saree, with a plain-white neck band’ during the hearings before the Supreme Court of f India through Virtual Court System till medical exigencies exist or until further orders.”

A lawyer found smoking in the car during a virtual hearing before the Gujarat high court was fined Rs 10,000 for his conduct. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan faced an embarrassing moment when he was found smoking a hookah during the hearing of an important case before the Rajasthan high court. He escaped the eyes of the judge, though.

In June, the Supreme Court hauled up a lawyer for appearing in a T-shirt, lounging on his bed. A bench remarked: “Minimum court etiquette in terms of what can be considered a decent dress, background, etc should be followed given the public nature of the hearings.” The lawyer was let off on offering an unconditional apology.

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