A video showing a judicial and a technical member of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) at Chandigarh engaging in a heated exchange has gone viral on social media and messaging apps.
The video of the courtroom shows the Member (Judicial) Dr. Patibandla Satyanarayana Prasad and Member (Technical) Umesh Kumar Shukla argue over the way the latter conducts the cases.
“What is this? Everyday you are doing this. There should be some limit. You can’t do this everyday. I am tolerating you to a large extent…,” Prasad is seen telling Shukla in the 3 minute and 22 second-long video.
The video is of a hearing that took place in January.
While Shukla’s response is not audible in the video, Prasad is also heard telling Shukla the following,
“You ask anybody in the bar…Everyday you unnecessarily … people. Whatever clarification you want, you read. He [counsel] will comply with it, that is all, there ends the matter. ‘I want to do this, you want to do this’, don’t say that.”
The exchange also seems to turn into a confrontation when Prasad tells Shukla that he is the controller of the court and not him.
“I am the controller of the court, not you. [A] Judicial member is the controller of the Court … you rake up the matter to any extent. You don’t talk like this. I am tolerating you to a greater extent. I have tolerated you till date to so much extent. Every time you don’t understand.”
Finally, Prasad is heard advising Shukla that he has to work with the Judicial Member.
“This is not the way. Kindly mend your behavior,” Prasad is seen saying.
While Prasad was a legal adviser to the Reserve Bank of India before joining NCLT as a judicial member in 2019, Shukla was the Chief Adviser (Cost) at Department of Expenditure under the Ministry of Finance before his appointment to the NCLT in July last year.
A lawyer who witnessed the exchange between the two members told Bar and Bench on condition of anonymity that the technical member has had disagreements with the judicial member in open court in the past as well.
Another senior lawyer from Chandigarh gave a context to the whole verbal conflict.
"A technical member is from a non-judicial background. He throughout his career has been on the administrative side of the service and has now been elevated to the bench. Now the respect you get is different and you have to change the way you would ask questions while in office. While you are on bench, you have to be more subtle and cautious of how many questions you are putting," the lawyer said.
The lawyers Bar and Bench spoke to also highlighted a practical problem at NCLT's Chandigarh Bench. While there are two courts, there is only a single functional courtroom at present.
As a result, while Court-1 sits in the morning, the Court-2 starts functioning only at 2 PM.
"When you have just the half day, obviously the controller of the court i.e., judicial member, wants to continue with the cause list in the most swift manner. A judicial member will understand that there may be certain queries in your mind but this is not the right time because eventually it is going to be adjourned as pleadings are not complete. The judicial member would prefer utilising the time in those cases which are complete," a lawyer said.