Maintain Court decorum
Maintain Court decorum
Litigation News

Lawyers eating on camera, arguing from gardens and moving cars: The Orissa HC's "horrible" virtual hearing experiences

The Court has directed the Bar Council and the Bar Association to ensure that advocates do not breach the decorum and decency in virtual court proceedings.

Rintu Mariam Biju

In a recent order, the Orissa High Court recounted its "horrible" experiences of lawyers failing to maintain courtroom decorum during virtual hearings necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most recent such instance, as recorded in the order passed by Justice Biswanath Rath, was when an advocate appeared for a hearing in a moving vehicle. When the Court asked the lawyer for an explanation, he said that he had to attend a case at Puri and was therefore unable to argue his case from his residence at Cuttack.

Deprecating this practice of not maintaining minimum courtroom decorum, the Single Judge Bench held,

"This Court seriously condemns the conducting of a case inside a vehicle on road. In the Covid-19 situation extending arguing place beyond the Court premises does not mean permitting one to argue matter inside a vehicle, from his lawn and from his drawing room allowing his wife to join him in the process of proceeding. Counsel should argue at the minimum from his/her home or temporary residence and there should be maintenance of minimum decorum."

Orissa High Court

Thus, the Court proceeded to direct the interim committee of the Bar Council and the Bar Association to ensure that advocates do not breach the decorum as well as decency in Court proceedings.

In its order, the Bench also mentioned various other instances where advocates had appeared before the Court in an unprofessional manner.

"First one is when a counsel after finishing his case, brought his wife inside the Video Conferencing site and even after frequent request since position did not improve, Court from its own side had to disconnect the petitioner’s connection. Second instance is, a counsel argued his matter from garden. On query learned counsel said he could not get proper contact from inside his house, which proved to be wrong when learned counsel shifted the system to inside his house and inside his house, he was requested not to repeat in future. This Court has also observed, some counsel while appearing through Video Conferencing went on eating and despite repeated requests, he did not stop himself."

This is not the first instance where a lawyer has been pulled up for unprofessional etiquette during virtual hearings.

Not long ago, the Supreme Court had accepted the unconditional apology of an advocate who appeared for a hearing via video conference while lying on his bed, wearing a t-shirt.

The Rajasthan High Court asked the High Court Bar Association had urged all advocates to appear in their uniform during VC hearing after an advocate appeared for hearing in his baniyan.

Most recently, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan was seen smoking hookah during a hearing. The Supreme Court also pulled up a lawyer for chewing Gutkha during a video hearing.

[Read order here]

Orissa HC - court decorum.pdf
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