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The Bar Council of India (BCI) on Wednesday intimated that a show cause notice has been issued to lawyers Raahul Trivedi and Suhasini Sen, accused of running illegal advertisements on the website https://toplawyersofsupremecourtofindia.com in violation of BCI Rules.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the BCI noted that the said website categorised many lawyers practicing in Delhi into three categories, including a category for "good junior lawyers."
The BCI noted that names of prominent Senior Counsel such as Fali S Nariman, KK Venugopal, Soli Sorabjee, K Parasaran, Harish Salve, KTS Tulsi, Mukul Rohatgi, Aryama Sundaram, Gopal Subramaniam etc. have been purposely cited by those running the website to mislead viewers about the credentials of other lawyers named as being in league or next in league with such seniors.
The BCI clarifies that the names of the Senior Advocates may have been used without their knowledge by those running the website.
Objection has also been made to statements on the website that its claims regarding the "top lawyers" are based on surveys conducted by the BCI. The regulatory body has emphasised that it has not conducted any such survey. Further, these claims have been condemned as "nothing but an utter misrepresentation of the name of BCI and tantamount to misconduct."
In this backdrop, the BCI has intimated that disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against two lawyers found prima facie to be responsible for the creation of the website i.e. Advocates Raahul Trivedi and Suhasini Sen.
At the time of publishing this story, Trivedi was unavailable for comment.
Speaking to Bar & Bench, however, Suhasini Sen asserted that she has nothing whatsoever to do with the website. She said,
Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan has also come to her defence. In a statement posted on LinkedIn, he said,
"Oddly, without evidence, the national regulatory body for lawyers (BCI) threw all principles of law out of the window and decided to issue a show cause notice to Suhasini Sen… after using the words “sinister purpose”, “ill methods” and “mischief” to describe her. Suhasini happens to be one of the most ethical, intelligent, industrious and compassionate lawyers we have at the Supreme Court."
The BCI statement goes on to say,
"Apparently, these two Advocates (referring to Trivedi and Sen) have created other websites also to advertise and highlight themselves and also of a few other junior Advocates...by putting themselves on the same page as many of such Senior established Advocates, these two named Advocates have tried to gain mileage and undue advantage, so that an ordinary client would get mislead, by thinking them to be next in the line of many such established Advocates..."
It was also noted that,
"The sinister game of these two Advocates raises serious doubt on their conduct when they name only five Advocates as “Good Junior Advocates” and only 10 Senior Advocates in their so-called category 2…. All this has been done deliberately and prima facie, it is in clear violation of Rules of Bar Council of India."
In his post, however, Sankaranarayanan opines,
"It was clear to anybody who looked at the website (toplawyersofsupremecourtofindia.com) that it was the handiwork of a father-son lawyer duo, one of whom has also been named in the BCI release."
He has also criticised the BCI's decision to publicise the show-cause notice through Wednesday's press release, pointing out,
The BCI proceeded to emphasise that this not an isolated case of illegal advertising through websites. It is noted in the statement that even though such websites were discretely existing before, some lawyers are taking undue advantage of the lockdown to carry out such illegal advertising.
The BCI adds that,
"Prima facie, it appears to the Council that a handful of persons are adopting all sorts of ill methods in order to mislead the people of the country and grab the entire Legal Profession."
Therefore, the BCI has stated that it has authorised and requested its Chairman, Manan Kumar Mishra, to write to the judges of the Supreme Court on the issue, "since it is tarnishing the image of the judiciary and the judges also."
Further, the BCI has urged the Supreme Court to check on such malpractices in its own manner so that the general public is not misled into believing in the presence of of only "some select Advocates" or that Advocates are able to compete with these “so-called Top Advocates”.
The statement adds that this is required in view of the larger picture and for the interest of the entire legal fraternity.