The Supreme Court on Thursday restored the Senior designation of Gujarat lawyer Yatin Oza for a period of two years with effect from January 1, 2022. Most importantly, the Court said that extension of Senior designation beyond two years will be at the discretion of the Gujarat High Court after taking into account the conduct of the veteran lawyer.
The Gujarat High Court had decided to take Oza’s Senior gown away in July 2020 after he made claims of corruption against the High Court Registry.At the same time, the High Court had begun suo motu contempt proceedings against Oza and declared him guilty.Oza had challenged the contempt verdict in the Supreme Court, as well as the Full Court’s decision to withdraw his Senior gown, in a separate writ suit.
The Supreme Court had already requested the High Court in March to consider the possibility of deferring its judgment to strip Oza of his gown.
Earlier last month, the Supreme Court deferred its decision in the case.
Arguments presented before the Court
The council on behalf of the Petitioner did not seek to justify the conduct of the petitioner. The direction of the argument had been that the Court should show compassion. It was argued that the withdrawal of designation is not limited by time and was disproportionately harsh as the petitioner was not being given an opportunity to redeem himself.
Observations by the Court
The Court stated that attempting to temporarily restore the petitioner’s designation for a period of two years, beginning on 1.1.2022, would serve the interests of justice. Thus, without further opportunity, the High Court would be watching and deciding how the petitioner behaves and conducts himself as a senior attorney. It would be up to the High Court to decide whether his behavior was appropriate, in which case the High Court can decide whether to keep his designation on a temporary or permanent basis.
The court stated that it wanted to give the petitioner a chance by providing a window of two years to show that he truly means what he had assured the court of. The court expressed hope that the petitioner abides by his assurances and does not give any cause for the High Court or for the Supreme Court to think otherwise.
The court under the guidance of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R Subhash Reddy, ordered that if there is any infringement in Oza’s conduct during the two-year period, the High Court would be well within its rights to revoke the two-year indulgence granted.
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