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Junior counsel who assist the court ought not to be described as proxy counsel, Delhi HC

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court has remarked 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.

When junior counsel working in the chambers of filing counsel appear and assist the court, instead of describing them as “proxy counsel” alternative terminology such as “_____, Advocate appearing for Ld. Counsel for the Plaintiff/Defendant” can be adopted..”

Only when a junior or other counsel is completely unrelated and/or unprepared in the case, the terminology of “proxy counsel” can be used, the Court has said.

The Court has observed that junior counsel cannot be simply treated as proxy counsel as such treatment not only discourages them but also creates delays in the dispensation of justice.

When junior counsels appearing before the court are prepared and are ready to assist, they ought to be heard and effective orders can be passed. Filing counsel or the counsel in whose favour the client has given the vakalatnama ought to encourage junior advocates and counsels to make submissions and argue matters.”

The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh while hearing a challenge to an order passed by a Commercial Civil Judge imposing costs of Rs. 4,000 upon the Plaintiff, Veena Gupta in a recovery suit against Bajaj Allianz, the Defendant.

The counsel for the Plaintiff submitted that on the date of the order, appearance had been entered by the Plaintiff’s counsel in the morning and the process server’s statement was also recorded.

It was added that the matter was put up at 2:30 PM for the passing of appropriate orders. However, the counsel appeared at 2:45 PM and by then, an order imposing costs had been pronounced since none appeared for the Plaintiff.

A perusal of the order sheet showed that Advocate Deepa Maurya‘s appearance was recorded as the proxy counsel for the Plaintiff.

After hearing the party, the Court noted that Advocate Deepa Maurya was a junior counsel of Advocate OP Gupta and was ready to assist the Court as she was aware of the case.

The Court thus went to analyse the meaning of the term ‘proxy counsel’ and stated,

“..in the District Courts, junior counsel, who appears from the chambers of the counsel who file vakalatnamas, are reflected as “Proxy Counsel”. From this, it is not clear as to whether the junior counsel, who appear, are ready to assist the Court or not..”

It thus went on to state that Junior counsel, who works in the filing counsel’s chamber, is aware of the facts and assist the court, ought not to be described as proxy counsel.

“Proxy Counsel” ought to be used only when the counsel, who appears, is not able to assist the Court in the matter or are merely seeking an adjournment…Only in case a junior or other counsel who is completely unrelated and/or unprepared in the case, the terminology of „proxy counsel‟ can to be used”, it said.

The Court added that the courts have a duty to encourage junior counsel who may not have filed vakalatnamas and ought to hear them if they are ready to assist the court.

The Court nonetheless iterated words of caution of well.

There are some orders such as withdrawal of a suit, recordal of settlement in a suit, etc., which essentially require the filing counsel to be present. Except in such situations, court proceedings can continue with the appearance of junior counsels so long as they have the necessary express/implied permission to make submissions from their seniors.”

The Court thus remarked that junior counsel who is working in the chambers of filing counsel and appears and assists the court be described as “_____, Advocate appearing for Ld. Counsel for the Plaintiff/Defendant” instead of proxy counsel.

With respect to the case at hand, the Court observed that the order sheets placed on record showed no valid reason for the imposition of costs in this manner when the junior counsel was present.

It further observed that it was the junior counsel who got the statement of the process server recorded and thereafter, the Court even proceeded against the Defendant ex-parte.

In view of the facts and circumstances set out above, the Court opined that the appearance of the junior counsel for the Plaintiff should be considered sufficient appearance on behalf of the Plaintiff.

The Court thus allowed the petition and set aside the order of costs.

The Plaintiff was represented by Advocate Neha Garg.

Read the Order:

PMS30102019CMM15552019_watermark.pdf
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