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OPINION: Sanity come to us for we are lawyers: Supreme Court issues suo motu contempt notice to Lawyer

Seems like the D-day is about to arrive for the institution . This was the feeling I had when I was destined to witness the suo motu contempt notice being issued to Advocate Nisha Priya Bhatia by the Supreme Court , for her unwarranted and unruly behavior in the Supreme Court, which could be taken as nothing but a contemptuous act. I was waiting for my item No. 12 along with our colleagues in Court No. 11, which was presided by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel along with Justice R.F. Nariman and Justice U.U. Lalit.

Item No. 9 was shown in the Board and Senior Advocate A.K. Sanghi stood up to argue his case. That was when the Court asked how much time he would take to present his case, as the Court was in the midst of part heard matters as the combination of the bench was available for the day only. From the submission of Mr.Sankhi , the Court found that the matter could not be finished on the same day. Therefore, they were about to adjourn the matter to next week. That was when Adv. Bhatia appearing on behalf of the respondent submitted that the matter would not take more than 5 minutes . The Court said it would certainly depend on the petitioners counsel as he was to open his case and that the matter has come after notice. This was when Adv. Bhatia lost her cool and she said that the Judges like the one presiding today have ruined the life of many litigants including hers and her daughter’s . That shocked not only the judges but all the lawyers present in the Court . When she was intimated that she may be crossing the limits and that the same may not be required as the matter is adjourned to a short date only, she said that she stuck by what she said and the Court should dare to take contempt against her and she would be happy to defend her stand. She also started abusing Justice Nariman saying he may not know the plight, being the son of Mr.Fali Nariman and started shouting at the Court even when the next item was called . The Court had no other alternative than to issue notice of contempt in as much as the action was prima facie contemptuous causing interference with the work. The Court there after appointed Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Ranjit Kumar as amicus to assist the court in the matter and the case was directed to be listed before some other Bench.

The incident was really unwarranted and could have been easily avoided by the lawyer. Not only was the lawyer warned but she challenged the court and interfered with the work of the court. The composure was lost by the lawyer which was evident and Tushar Mehta, the Additional Solicitor General who was waiting for the matter commented that the person may need examination by a medical board. Whatever that may be, witnessing such an incident in the Supreme Court was really unfortunate. The incident reminded me that as lawyers we need to maintain the composure and remind ourselves every now and then that we are officers of the Court. We need to boldly present our case but that does not mean we need to be cantankerous and outrageous.

The incident also indicates the urgency of a road map for time management and the need for increase in the number of judges at all levels, including the Supreme Court. It also reveals the need for health check up including sanity of the members of the fraternity. This incident is certainly a suggestion that all is not well within the bar which has lost responsibility. The members of the bar are not held responsible for their acts and there are not tests to check the competitiveness of the lawyer in regular intervals. Also, it is necessary that the lawyers should also made to undergo regular courses on continuing legal education with minimum mandatory hours for each year and update himself as lawyers. Unless the urge to study and update is kept alive among the members of the bar, it may become stagnant with novel ideas remaining aloof to the profession and depression hitting hard. It may also increase the number of such incidents even more as the work pressure is too difficult to handle and the members of the fraternity both at the bar and on the bench may falter thus crumbling the institution itself .

Krishnadas V. is an advocate practicing at the Supreme Court of India. Views expressed are personal. 

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