SC Bars Lawyer from Practising Over Contempt Of Court

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Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in a Contempt of Court case and held Senior Advocate Mathews J Nedumpara accountable for his actions. He was barred from practising  in the Apex Court for a year and was given three months suspended sentence.

Facts of the case

The top court on last Wednesday accused Advocate Mathews J Nedumpara of high handedness, intimidation and “browbeating” the judges in Court. The Apex Court pointed out that Advocate Nedumpara has always shown a bad attitude in courts whenever things do not work in his favour. The Court had held the Advocate’s repeated bad behaviour in his attitude towards judges while attempting to browbeat and insult them is a matter of contempt of court case. On March 11 the judges held him guilty on such charges and decided on sentencing on March 27.

The Supreme Court was hearing a case on March 5 where National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms had raised a contention through their Advocate Mathews J Nedumpara. Advocate Nedumpara argued that “sons and daughters of judges were given priority in awarding of the ‘senior advocate’ designation.” He also questioned the validity of Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961 and rallied against the concept of “two classes of advocates.” He was also extremely disrespectful while addressing the Court and claimed “judges were unfit to grant senior advocates designation to the lawyers,” showing blatant contempt and disregard towards senior advocate Fali S Nariman at the same time.  

Court ruling

The two-judge Bench of Justices Rohinton F Nariman and Vineet Saran were hearing the case when they took exception to his behaviour and warned Advocate Nedumpara for the same. Because of his abusive attitude the judges held him in contempt and reserved March 27 for sentencing. He was found guilty of the charges and was sentenced to three months in prison and was barred from practising in Supreme Court for a year. The three months prison term was later suspended by the judges when Advocate Nedumpara apologised to the Court and agreed to take an undertaking that he would not repeat such behaviour.

Advocate Subash Jha arguing for his client Advocate Nedumpara pointed out that the Bench should not be hearing the contempt case of his client and the case should be heard by someone else. The Apex Court rejected the plea and observed, “the Bombay Bar Association and others have written a letter to the President and the CJI wherein they attacked us in the most scurrilous manner. You are acting in tandem. You have undermined the highest judiciary.”

The top court also found that “in point of fact, the style of this particular advocate is to go on arguing, quoting Latin maxims, and when he finds that the court is not with him, starts becoming abusive. He was in the habit of terrorising Tribunal members and using intemperate language to achieve his ends before several judges of the Bombay High Court.”

Justice Nariman further reiterated, “Justice U U Lalit has a father who is practising lawyer. Are you aware I have a daughter who is practising law and not allowed to enter this court? Is it an issue -based or related to an individual? Non mentioning of the name of Justice Lalit shows that it is not issue-based.”

On the issue of Section 16(2) Advocates Act, 1961 the Apex Court dismissed the plea and held, “the writ petition, in essence, seeks a second review of our judgment reported in ‘Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India through Secretary General and Ors’.

Even otherwise, it is settled law that an Article 32 petition does not lie against the judgment of this Court. We are also of the view that Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961 is a provision which cannot be said to be unconstitutional and the designation of senior advocate cannot be as a matter of bounty or as a matter of right.”

Impact of the judgment

The top court has always shown stringent policies towards court proceedings and has maintained that Court officials should maintain a certain degree of decorum and discipline while conducting themselves within the court premises. The Apex Court has held decency, discipline and dedication at the highest levels are required of fellow judges and lawyers as they are supposed to decide on such issues where the Court becomes the moral compass of the society and lends a helping hand in guiding the citizens from the morass of centuries-old regressive practices, setting standards of public morality and bringing justice to the needy. All of these require judges and lawyers to be held accountable under more stringent regulations and be judged upon strict values and ethics. So it is essential at all times for Court officials to undertake the responsibility of not undermining the key pillar of justice and democracy of our country through their words and actions.

The top court has always shown stringent policies towards court proceedings and has maintained that Court officials should maintain a certain degree of decorum and discipline while conducting themselves within the court premises. The Apex Court has held decency, discipline and dedication at the highest levels are required of fellow judges and lawyers as they are supposed to decide on such issues where the Court becomes the moral compass of the society and lends a helping hand in guiding the citizens from the morass of centuries-old regressive practices, setting standards of public morality and bringing justice to the needy. All of these require judges and lawyers to be held accountable under more stringent regulations and be judged upon strict values and ethics. So it is essential at all times for Court officials to undertake the responsibility of not undermining the key pillar of justice and democracy of our country through their words and actions.

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