“Seriously considering withdrawing designation”; Rajeev Dhavan’s troubled history with the Bench

“Seriously considering withdrawing designation”; Rajeev Dhavan’s troubled history with the Bench

Murali Krishnan

The Chief Justice of India, TS Thakur today made some strong remarks against Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan. Not impressed by Dhavan’s conduct in court in the SEBI Sahara case, Thakur said in Dhavan’s absence that some senior advocates behave discourteously, and that the court would “seriously consider withdrawing the senior designation of such lawyers”.

The news reached the senior lawyer who immediately penned down a reply of sorts. The reply, which has Dhavan written all over it, begins as follows,

“It is most unfortunate that Chief Justice of India made uncharitable comments about me as a lawyer and my conduct in court behind my back”.

Dhavan has maintained that the order passed against Roy was “passed in temper” and hence, inappropriate.

“The Chief Justice lost his temper and passed an order ordering my client back to jail. I remonstrated that he passed the order in a temper and this was not fair.

Orders passed in temper, especially when all conditions are fulfilled are both inappropriate and unbecoming.”

Stating that it is the duty of the lawyer to tell the judge when there is a failure of justice, Dhavan concludes by stating that,

people in high places have enormous powers and duty to use it wisely”.

Thakur J. v. Dhavan

Rajeev Dhavan is known to be an outspoken lawyer and has engaged in verbal spat with judges and colleagues at the Bar in the past. However, his clashes with Justice Thakur really stand out.

More than two years ago, Dhavan and Justice Thakur had engaged in a verbal exchange in the same case – SEBI Sahara. And that is not where the similarity ends.

“Seriously considering withdrawing designation”; Rajeev Dhavan’s troubled history with the Bench

Just as today, the exchange was triggered by a negative response by the Bench to a request for parole for Subrata Roy.

After the order, turning down the request for parole was pronounced, Dhavan had stood his ground and was in no mood to let go. He proceeded to criticize the “peremptory” orders of the Supreme Court. Even while thanking the Bench for giving him audience after passing the order, Dhavan held on to his claim of “being deeply astonished and pained by the order” to which Justice Thakur replied,

“Your astonishment had started with the earlier Bench and it continues….shall we leave now Dr. Dhavan?”

This did not go down well with Dhavan who immediately shot back saying,

“Your Lordship is making fun of me. Don’t do that..don’t do that.”

After this episode, Dhavan was removed as counsel for Sahara, thus adding himself to the long list of senior lawyers to move away from the case.

There were further instances of confrontation with Thakur though it went unreported until today.

A history of spats

Even before the Bench presided by Justice TS Thakur started hearing the SEBI-Sahara dispute, Dhavan had been caught on the wrong side by the Bench comprising KS Radhakrishnan and JS Khehar JJ.

After Roy was sent to jail, Dhavan had strongly come down on the two judges, alleging that their order was “terribly terribly wrong” order. During one such hearing, Dhavan had gone to the extent of remarking that,

“Respect is a matter of court discipline. If I were to meet you (judges) outside the court, it might be different.”

During another hearing, Dhavan, while arguing in his inimitable, slow style, was asked to wrap up his arguments, and not repeat what had already been argued by the other lawyers. An infuriated Dhavan had replied that he will argue till he was done and that the judges would have to give him audience.

Things did not end there.

Dhavan had also made an appearance during the contempt proceedings against the lawyer who had smeared ink on Subrata Roy’s face. When the hearing was over, Dhavan interfered and asked the judges to pass an order in the Habeas Corpus petition urgently on the ground that Roy was finding it difficult to bear the summer heat in jail. The judges were confounded by this act and had left the courtroom without a word.

The Court, on its part, had responded very strongly in its judgment in the Habeas Corpus petition by criticising Dhavan and Jethmalani for their “psychological offensives, mind games, affronts, jibes and consciously planned snubs” against the Bench.

“Seriously considering withdrawing designation”; Rajeev Dhavan’s troubled history with the Bench

In 2013, during the hearing of the 2G case, Dhavan had hit out at Justice GS Singhvi for refusing to hear a case and recusing from the matter.

The Court had adjourned the matter which did not go down well with Dhavan, who was representing one of the news magazines. He took strong objection to the adjournment of the matter and demanded that he be heard the same day. When the Court refused to entertain him, an agitated Dhavan said,

“It is highly unfortunate. I don’t want to say this at a time when my lordship is retiring but I have to say it is highly unfortunate. You are denying me an opportunity to respond on the plea. It is highly arbitrary.”

A composed Justice Singhvi had, however, answered in a repetitive “very well” and recused himself from the matter

And with ASG Tushar Mehta

Dhavan’s brazenness has not been limited to his duel with the Bench alone. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta found that out when a case involving the Medical Council of India spilled into the court corridors.

Right from the beginning of the hearing, there was hostility from both Dhavan and Mehta as they sought to interrupt each other. Dhavan, evidently not pleased with Mehta’s interruptions, had suddenly burst out and told Mehta,

“Don’t ask me to sit down.”

Mehta was taken aback by the sudden outburst and there was a brief exchange of words between the two.

Subsequently, when the hearing was over and the lawyers were leaving the court room, Mehta tried to get back at Dhavan. But it was met with a curt and sharp “Shut up..just shut up” as Dhavan walked away nonchalantly.

What now?

After the spat with Justice Thakur, Sahara immediately apologised with their lawyer even stating that Dhavan had exceeded his brief. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal also apologised profusely while terming the whole episode as “unfortunate”.

Whether Sahara would retain Dhavan again after this controversial hearing remains to be seen.

Lead Image taken from here

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