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The Madras High Court recently came to the aid of an advocate seeking to challenge his suspension from practice on allegations of having misappropriated client property. In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, a Vacation Bench directed the Bar Council of India (BCI) to dispose of his application to stay the suspension order within a month’s time
The advocate concerned, MV Santharaman had been suspended by a disciplinary committee of the Tamil Nadu Bar Council (TN Bar Council) on finding him guilty of professional misconduct. An order to this effect was passed on April 30 this year. The committee had penalised him with a five-year suspension and a fine of Rs 50,000. He was also directed to surrender his Enrolment Certificate and Bar Council ID.
Santharaman sought to challenge the said order. While he paid the fine amount, he also filed an application with the Tamil Nadu Bar Council authorities to stay his suspension order under Section 40 (2) of the Advocates’ Act, 1961 on May 13.
However, he was informed that his application was not processed since the disciplinary committee of the TN Bar Council was not sitting owing to the month-long summer vacation. An application was thereafter filed before a Special Committee managing the affairs of the Bar Council during the vacation, so that he could move his stay application. This too remained unprocessed.
This prompted Santharaman to approach the BCI. On May 20, he filed an appeal under Section 37 of the Advocates’ Act. Since the TN Bar Council was yet to process his stay application, he also moved a stay application before the BCI. However, he was informed later that the officer in charge of numbering and listing the matter was on leave.
This being the case, Santharaman sought the intervention of the Madras High Court to carry forward his challenge to the TN Bar Council’s suspension order. The Bench of Justices N Sathish Kumar and PT Asha in turn has directed the BCI to expeditiously consider his stay application and appeal. The Court directed,
“… considering the facts and circumstances of the case, without going into the merits of the matter, this Court directs the third respondent to consider the stay application of the petitioner, dated 20.05.2019 filed by the petitioner under Section 40(1) of the Advocates Act, filed along with the appeal under Section 37 of the Advocates Act, vide Appeal No.R.167 of 2019, and pass appropriate orders and dispose of the stay application on merits and in accordance with law, within a period of one month from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.“
Read the High Court order: