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"If the tenant, like petitioner / Advocate is allowed to occupy the premises, a situation may arise, when no owner will rent out his building to an Advocate", the Court observed.
The Madras High Court recently had occasion to comment that the intrusion of “black sheep” in the legal profession was occasioning the reputation of good lawyers to be on the “verge of fall.” (VKKumaresan vs. P Jayaseelan and ors.)
The “inhumane” conduct of an advocate in a tenancy dispute led Justice S Vaidyanathan to remark,
Referring to various counter proceedings initiated by the advocate in the matter, the judge further observed,
“… the attempt of the petitioner to project himself that he is a law abiding citizen and that he is prompt in payment of rent, is nothing, but tying a flower on the ear and the conduct of the petitioner is unbecoming of a lawyer.
It is saddening to note that owing to intrusion of black sheep into the noble profession of advocacy, like the petitioner, the reputation of good lawyers in the society is at the verge of fall. The petitioner is a venom and if he is allowed to be mingled with other members of the Bar freely, the entire profession would be ruined, like a single drop of poison in a pot of milk turning the whole milk into poison."
The Court was dealing with a transfer petition filed by the delinquent advocate, VK Kumaresan, who had earlier rented a house in Vellore from a doctor. The doctor claimed that the advocate had failed to pay rent between 2006 and 2010, and further that the advocate was treating the rented premises like a dump-yard.
Eviction proceedings were instituted in 2010. In 2015, the advocate was directed to pay rental arrears of about Rs 1.4 lakhs. Another proceeding initiated by the landlord, led a court to direct the advocate to pay around Rs. 2.4 lakhs worth of arrears in 2017.
However, “as a last resort to drag on the proceedings”, the advocate filed a transfer plea in the Madras High Court, alleging that the lower court judge at Vellore was biased. Unconvinced by the advocate-tenant’s submissions, the Court opined,
“… it is clear that the tenant has been adopting the dilly-dallying practice to prolong the proceedings in RCA as well as this case.”
Lending credence to the Court’s conclusion were the fact that the tenant-advocate had sought several adjournments in the matter, and further that he was absent from Court when the matter last came up on a date fixed as per his request.
The Court also took note that the advocate had changed his counsel at least three times (twice during lower court proceedings, and once before the High Court).
As far as High Court proceedings were concerned, Justice Vaidyanathan observed that his last change of counsel was prompted by his refusal to listen to the counsel’s advice to abide by the Court’s direction to vacate the premises.
Rather, the petitioner, thereafter, re-asserted that there was no default on his part. However, the Court found that his conduct involved a clear violation of the State’s tenancy laws.
Moreover, referring to the Supreme Court’s observations regarding the standards of conduct for lawyers in R Muthukrishnan vs. The Registrar General of the High Court of Judicature at Madras, the High Court observed,
“If the conduct of the petitioner / Advocate is assessed in the light of the aforesaid judgment, he is not fit to practise advocacy, as he can no longer be called as gentleman on account of his inhuman attitude."
Madras High Court
Referring to the respect afforded to the lawyers in earlier times, the Court also observed that “it is a million dollar question as to whether those days will come back.”
As for the case at hand, the Court ruled against the delinquent advocate, noting that he had shown no remorse for his conduct, despite being given ample opportunity for correction.
The advocate was directed to vacate the premises within two weeks from the order date. The police were also directed to evict the tenant using force, if required. Further, the landlord was granted liberty to file a complaint against the lawyer before the State Bar Council for his conduct.
On a concluding note, the judge acknowledged that these directions may appear beyond the scope of a transfer petition. However, the Court pointed out that it is empowered to mould reliefs to meet the ends of justice in view of its inherent powers under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). Justice Vaidyanathan added,
Madras High Court
[Read the Order]