Bar Council of Tamil Nadu debars two advocates for defamatory allegations against Madras HC judge, professional misconduct

Bar Council of Tamil Nadu debars two advocates for defamatory allegations against Madras HC judge, professional misconduct

Meera Emmanuel

The Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry recently debarred two brother advocates for serious professional misconduct.

The order was passed by the Disciplinary Committee comprising Chairman R Singaravelan and members S Ilamvaluthi and Ravi Shanmugam after the two delinquent advocates chose to record abusive statements against the High Court judge who ordered a Bar Council inquiry against them.

The first instance of misconduct concerned Part Vl, Chapter II, Section l, Clause 6 of the Bar Council of India Rules. This provision bars advocates from appearing on behalf of family before any legal forum. In this case, R Chinthathirai Arockiam Selvi engaged his brother Esthov Antony Ashok to appear on behalf of him in his case before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

The second instance of misconduct was taken note of when the case came up for hearing. Whereas the engaged counsel was present in Court, the litigant opted to argue himself, while wearing advocate’s robes. On being questioned by the Court, Arockiam Selvi submitted that he practised as an advocate when he was not working as Marine Engineer at sea.

Noting that such dual employment was in violation of Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules, Justice G Jayachandran directed the Tamil Nadu Bar Council to initiate disciplinary action against both advocates. However, this order only incited the two advocates further. They went on to file affidavits before the Bar Council alleging that the judge had “acted as an advocate for the other side”, that he had lost his temper and made unwarranted statements in open court to disparage the advocate’s name.

The affidavits also stated that a request had been made to obtain unedited video footage of the Court proceedings to “unmask the malafide intention of the presiding officer of the Court.”

As for the two allegations of professional misconduct, the delinquent advocates submitted:

  • Marine engineering does not constitute a permanent/full-time job. Therefore, he does not have to suspend his advocate practice and such employment does not violate Rule 49 of the BCI Rules.
  • That Article 22 (1) of the Constitution (right to be defended by legal practitioner of one’s choice) enables the engaging of even brothers as advocates in a case.

The Bar Council, however, found no merit in either contention, and proceeded to conclude that the two advocates were liable to be penalised for the misconduct.

ln that view of the matter the audacity and adamancy shown by the respondents not only before the Hon’ble Judge in the court but also before us cannot be spared and hence we are inclined to hold that they have a serious misconduct warranting a severe punishment in the manner known to law. “

On criticism against Judges

Terming the case at hand as “shocking to the conscience”, the Disciplinary Committee was prompted to criticise the proclivity to direct verbal abuse at judges, particularly on social media forums. As observed in the order,

We feel that Judge now-a-days is well protected physically with the help of police force but not mentally because of the unpredictable and magical advancement of the scientific technologies padicularly Facebook and Whatsapp. A Judge, the moment passes any public oriented sensitive order, immediately he is being subjected to criticism and debate in social media. One order passed by a court becomes hundred orders because of various mischievous interpretations given by social media. The personal conduct of the Hon’ble Judge also is being touched either directly or indirectly.

The Committee also highlights that ideally, disagreement with a Court’s verdict must be carried forward within the institutional appellate processes, rather than through unchecked social media debate. This is reflected in the following observations of the Bar Council:

Right or wrong , the judicial order is subject to challenge only in the appellate forum and not in the social media. Any criticism in the social media would definitely damage the independence of judiciary and the same would definitely cause adverse impact in the society… 

…Every advocate has to realize that by criticizing the Court, we choose to criticize ourselves and cut sorry figure in the public…

In view of the above observations, the Committee ultimately ordered that the names of both delinquent advocates be removed from the Bar Council rolls.

Read the order passed by the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry here.

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