New Delhi: The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, came down heavily on lawyers giving “political colour” to judgments while appearing before the media and said it was the “gravest form of contempt” and that such “black sheep” should be removed from the profession to protect the integrity of judiciary.
In a judgment, uploaded on Bar and Bench website, on Wednesday, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Vineet Saran observed: “It has been seen from time to time that various attacks have been made on the judicial system. It has become very common to the members of the bar to go to the media to criticize the judges in person and to commit sheer contempt by attributing political colours to the judgments. It is nothing less than an act of contempt of the gravest form. … Whenever any political matter comes to the court and is decided, either way, political insinuations are attributed by unscrupulous persons/advocates. Such acts are nothing but an act of denigrating the judiciary itself and destroys the faith of the common man in the judicial system.”
The Supreme Court bench made the observations while striking down certain rules laid by Madras high court to take disciplinary action, like debarring lawyers who indulge in violence or other indiscipline.
An advocate, R Muthukrishnan, challenged the rules set by the high court saying the high court had no power to frame them as only the state bar councils or the Bar Council of India could do so. The Supreme Court quashed the rules as impermissible and upheld the argument of the petitioner.
Justice Arun Mishra wrote on the judgment: “The debarment cannot be ordered by the high court until and unless (the) advocate is prosecuted under the Contempt of Courts Act. It cannot be resorted to by undertaking disciplinary proceedings as contemplated under the Rules 14A to 14D as amended in 2016 (by the high court). That is a clear usurpation of the power of the Bar Council and is wholly impermissible.”
However, he directed the Bar Council of India to amend the rules to take action against delinquent lawyers.
He observed: “In case of genuine grievance against any judge, the appropriate process is to lodge a complaint to the concerned higher authorities who can take care of the situation and it is impermissible to malign the system itself by attributing political motives and by making false allegations against the judicial system and its functionaries. Judges who are attacked are not supposed to go to media to ventilate their point of view. … It is making it more difficult to render justice in a fair, impartial and fearless manner though the situation is demoralizing that something has to be done by all concerned to revamp the image of the bar. It is not open to wash dirty linen in public and enter into accusation/debates, which tactics are being adopted by unscrupulous elements to influence judgments and even to deny justice with ulterior motives.”
The bench said it was the duty of the bar to protect honest judges and not to ruin their reputation and at the same time to ensure that corrupt judges were not spared.
It observed: “However, lawyers cannot go to the streets or go on strike except when democracy itself is in danger and the entire judicial system is at stake. In order to improve the system, they have to take recourse to legally available methods by lodging complaints against corrupt judges to the appropriate administrative authorities and not to level such allegation in the public. Corruption is intolerable in the judiciary.”
The bench also emphasized on balancing on values and respect between the bar and the bench.
It observed: “The balancing of values, reverence between the Bar and the Bench is the edifice of the independent judicial system. Time has come to restore the glory and cherish the time-tested enduring ideals and principles. For a value-driven framework, it is necessary that perspective is corrected in an ethical and morally sound perspective. The perception of ambulance chasers, money guzzlers and black sheep should not be presumptive. Such public perception as to lawyers undermines the credibility of the legal profession, all the evils from the system have to be totally weeded out. No human institution is ever perfect. In order to drive towards more perfection, one has to just learn from the mistakes of the past and build upon the present days’ good work so as to make out a better tomorrow.”