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Chennai-based lawyer Manikandan Vathan Chettiar has approached the Supreme Court challenging the life ban imposed on him by the Bar Council of India (BCI).
However, when the plea came up for hearing today, the Advocate-on-Record and the Advocate who had drawn the appeal informed the Court that they wished to be discharged from the case. In view of the same, the appellant-lawyer has been granted two weeks to approach the Court again. Manikandan had moved the Supreme Court against the BCI’s orders pronounced in February last year which imposed a ‘debarment from the legal profession for life’. The BCI order that debarred the petitioner is based on Madras High Court’s orders of 2015, wherein the cases against the petitioner were suo motu transferred to the BCI. The Madras High Court’s orders are also being challenged in the appeal.
The appellant claims that he is the third person in India’s “395-year-old contemporary judicial history” to be debarred for life after Shyamaji Krishna Varma and Mahatma Gandhi.
It is claimed by the appellant that he has worked extensively in the fields of legal rights of victims of crime, public interest litigation, as well as judicial and administrative reform. The petition delves in the details of the petitioner’s legal work.
The appellant claims to have unearthed a state-wide fake bail racket in Tamil Nadu and moved the Madras High Court in that regard in 2015 “to take appropriate measures against the racketeers in the interest of justice.”
However, the Madras High Court imposed an indefinite ban on the appellant in 2015 “instead of pursuing the racketeers”. This ban was mutated to a life ban by the BCI, owing to which the appellant has submitted that he has been isolated from the legal community.
“Ever since the illegal indefinite illegal interim ban has been imposed on the Appellant, he has been isolated from the legal community through relentless efforts of the honourable high court, solely for the purpose of protecting hardened criminals.”
In light of the ban imposed, the appellant was evicted from his chamber in his absence and without his knowledge while his belongings including case files were confiscated.
The appellant has thus prayed that the BCI orders imposing a ban on him be set aside and that he be granted compensation and damages worth Rs 10 crore.
Additionally, he has also invoked Article 140 of the Constitution to seek the framing of guidelines to protect the independence of India’s lawyers and judges.
When the matter came up for admission today, Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the appellant, informed the Court that certain changes were made to the appeal by the appellant himself without the consent of the lawyers engaged. He submitted that he, along with the entire team of lawyers, are embarrassed of the development.
The contentious changes in the appeal pertain to certain allegations made by the appellant against some judges.
In view of the same, Gonsalves sought the Court’s permission to persuade the appellant to withdraw the appeal and file a fresh one. However, the appellant expressed his wish to engage another lawyer instead and refused to make the changes.
Justice DY Chandrachud, who is on the Bench with Justice Hemant Gupta, expressed his displeasure at the practice of casting allegations against judges, remarking,
“There are allegations made constantly against judges…Impleading Judges as parties, Advocate General…It is an awkward appeal“
The Court, however, allowed the lawyers to be discharged from the case and granted the appellant two weeks time to approach the Court again.
Read the Petition: