Allahabad High Court: While enunciating that “Nobility and contribution to freedom struggle of our nation are the two attributes which rush to our minds whenever and wherever the profession of law practice is ever referred to” the Division Bench of Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Narendra Kumar Johari, JJ., stated that, judiciary neither has power of sword nor that of purse, it stands tall only by virtue of trust and faith of people.
This Court was called upon to deal with the criminal contempt proceedings instituted on a letter dated 17-8-2001 written by the then District Judge, Gonda whereby a reference had been made to initiate contempt proceedings against 12 lawyers.
“It is painful for this Court to deal with the contempt proceedings drawn against the lawyers who are supposed to be the officers of the Court first and whose role stands recorded in the annals of history in strengthening the judiciary of our country which is supposed to embark upon a perilous and painstaking path of imparting justice to our citizenry.”
Further, the Bench observed that, in the present times, Court had noticed the uncalled for and unwarranted conduct/behavior of the lawyers which has the potential of eroding the faith and trust of the public in the judicial system.
What did the letter contain?
The said letter of the District Judge contained allegations that on 01-12-2000 the lawyers resolved to go on strike and boycott the court of First Civil Judge (Junior Division), Gonda and on that date the respondents-lawyers along with their colleagues indulged in an act of destruction and throwing away the records of the said court. However, further mishappenning could be avoided as the Presiding Officer of the said court went on leave. The letter further stated that on 01-12-2000 itself the respondents and their fellow advocates misbehaved with the then In-charge District Judge.
The allegation in the letter further was that the District Judge took charge on 11-08-2000 and immediately thereafter he received certain complaints about the functioning of the then Chief Judicial Magistrate. The letter further stated that a complaint was received against the then Chief Judicial Magistrate in respect of certain misconduct regarding his misbehaviour with a girl whose statement was recorded by him under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The District Judge in the said letter had further stated that he went to Allahabad to apprise the Registrar General of this Court.
On 14.11.2000 the lawyers passed a resolution to go on strike on the said date on the instigation of the then Chief Judicial Magistrate and the First Additional District Judge.
The letter also stated that for maintaining peace and order in the court premises, on the request of the District Judge, police personnels were deployed and it is in these circumstances that the District Judge by the said letter requested to initiate contempt proceedings against the contemners.
High Court Decision
In the instant matter, what Court noted was that the notices were issued only on 31-10-2001 and accordingly the rigour of Section 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act will operate in this case as well.
Another significant point which was noted was that out of 12 respondents, 6 respondents have since died.
Further, it stated that all the respondents are senior citizens, who are aged between 62 years to 78 years. The incidents, on the basis of which contempt proceedings have been instituted, are said to have occurred about 21 years ago.
Respondents who are alive had submitted their unqualified apology and condemned their alleged incidents.
In view of the above stated, Bench opined that the present matter now needs to be given a quietus, on accepting the apology of the respondents.
Before parting with the matter, Court wanted to put on record its anguish and concern emanating from the reports which this Court receives almost on daily basis about the conduct and behaviour of the Advocates.
Certain observations have been made about the nature of the legal profession by Supreme Court in the case of R. Muthur Krishnan v. Registrar General, (2019) 16 SCC 407, Ex Capt. Harish Uppal v. Union of India, (2003) 2 SCC 45 and certain other decisions.
Lastly, the High Court stated that
“We understand that the approach of the Court while dealing with contempt specially against the lawyers should be correctional…”
Court hopes that no such incident shall be repeated. [State of U.P. v. Rama Kant Pandey, 2021 SCC OnLine All 918, decided on 24-12-2021]