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The Delhi High Court has held that when junior counsel are ready to cross-examine a witness or to argue a matter, as long as they are from the same filing counsel’s office, they ought to be permitted to appear and to conduct the proceedings by the court.
Such junior counsel cannot be denied permission to cross-examine the witness on the ground that they are not authorized by the main counsel, the Court has clarified.
The Order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh in a challenge to an order passed a Trial Court.
The ACJ had closed the right of cross-examination of the petitioner with respect to a witness in a case before it.
As per the order passed by the ACJ, the main counsel was not available as he was attending another matter before the Patna High Court. However, “proxy counsel” appearing for the petitioner was ready to cross-examine the witness, the order further records.
The request to cross-examine was denied by the ACJ on the ground that the “proxy counsel” had not been authorized by the main counsel or the petitioner to cross-examine the witness. Since it was the last and final opportunity granted to the petitioner for cross-examining, the opportunity for the same was closed by the ACJ.
After perusing the facts of the case, the Court held that the order was contrary to its order passed in Veena Gupta versus Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Co. Limited.
In Veena Gupta, the Court had held that junior counsel, who work in the filing counsel’s chamber, is aware of the facts and assist the court, ought not to be described as proxy counsel. It had added that junior counsel could not be simply treated as proxy counsel as such treatment would not only discourage them but also create delays in the dispensation of justice.
In light of Veena Gupta, the Court observed that in the present case, the junior counsel who appeared on the said date was ready to cross-examine the witness, there was no reason why ACJ should not have allowed him to cross-examine the witness.
“..if junior counsels are ready to cross-examine the witnesses and to argue the matter, so long as they are from the same filing counsel’s office they ought to be permitted to appear and to conduct the proceedings..”, it said.
Accordingly, the order closing the right to cross-examination was set aside with a direction that cross-examination would be conducted on the next date of hearing.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate Chandra Shekhar Goswami.
Read the Order: