Legal Ethics Under Lens : Bench vs Bar, Judiciary vs Advocacy
Posted on 13 March, 2023 by Administrator
On 02-Mar-2023, an incident occurred in Supreme Court of India where in there is a “heated” exchange between present SCBA President Sr. Adv Vikas Singh and CJI. The cause of the same was Adv Singh seeking a matter relating to Bar and Lawyers Chamber to be listed which has been purportedly delayed for over 6 months.
For the interest of the reader, the summary transcript of the heated exchange has been captured towards the end of this article. But what is more pertinent subject that arose (Once again) is the ethics and conflicts between the two most important facets of administration of Justice, the Bar and the Bench (Judges). I am not getting into the right and wrong. I am not even trying to get into who said what. My focus in the blog is to what was envisaged as role of judiciary by our founding fathers/mothers who built the constitution, the constitution that have kept our nation intact despite all odds and roller coaster proceeds in last 75 odd years of independence.
The excerpts from Judicial Ethics that entails what is expected from Judges is “A judge is judged not only by the quality of his judgments, but also by the quality and purity of his character and the measurable standard of that character is impeccable integrity reflected transparently in his personal life as well. One who corrects corruption should be incorruptible. That is the high standard, the public has set in such high offices of institutional integrity. Therefore, any departure from the pristine codes and values of discipline and disciplined conduct on the part of the judicial officers will have to be viewed very seriously”. Page 4 Second Para.
In addition, Restatement of Values in Judicial Life (As adopted by Full Court Meeting of the Supreme Court of India on 07-May-1997) reads in para 1 that “Justice must not merely be done but it must also be seen to be done. The behaviour and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must reaffirm the people's faith in the impartiality of the judiciary. Accordingly,any act of a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court,whether inofficial or personal capacity, which erodes the credibility of this perception has to be avoided.” Para -9 entails “A Judge is expected to let his judgments speak for themselves.” And in Para 16 it reads “Every Judge must at all times be conscious that he is under the public gaze and there should be no act or omission by him which is unbecoming of the high office he occupies and the public esteem in which that office is held”.
While the above is underlined for Judicial officers, Lawyers and Advocates are under obligation in Rules on an Advocate’s Duty Towards the court, Rule 1 (Act in Dignified Manner) reads “During the presentation of his case and also while acting before a court, an advocate shouldact in a dignified manner. He should at all times conduct himself with self-respect. However, whenever there is proper ground for serious complaint against a judicial officer, the advocate has a right and duty to submit his grievance to proper authorities.”
In light of the above, Myself (Adv Amogh) being a member of the Bar choose to raise some pertinent question in my personal capacity over this and various such ordeals as has been in the news that has shaken my confidence in my adult life of past 25 years regarding the Judiciary. I ask this question,.. though I don't expect anyone to care to show the courage to even try and respond.. but in light of the blessed era we in India are in (after having lost 3 major economic opportunities to confusions and chaos and just lucky to make some place in the 4th economic opporunity with emergence of IT in mainstream) today with world attention aligned to our potential, here are the questions --
1. Bench members (former) have time an again highlighted about 99% corruption in lower judiciary in India. How does that help and confirm to Para 9 of the Values in Judicial Life ?? Is it too much to ask or hope for an Action Taken Report to such contempts to Judicial Values ??
2. Bench has repeatedly expressed its inability to resolve the pendencies.. mostly accounting it to unavailability of the Judges in adequate numbers. What confidence does it leave in the minds and hearts of millions of Indians about administration of Justice in India ? How does Bench find it morally right to account for months of Judicial Leaves and Millions spent on vacation etc while pendencies continue ?? What Out Of The Box thinking has been done in this regard except to keep the process of Justice complicated to "possibly" suit selfish goals ?
3. Bench has closed/dismissed case basing on submissions from advocates not even caring to take a oral confirmation of those submission or affidavits from the Plaintiffs. Is this not an opportunity of corruption / error in administration of Justice ?
4. Most settlement of cases between litigating parties is based on incessant delays and cost of court proceedings instead of adjudication as per applicable laws. Is this not pushing innocent seekers of justice to disappointment over Judicial Process ? Is this not pointing towards Justice becoming a product of the Market where the big pockets deserve true justice and rest left lurking in dark and settling disputes to avoid waste of time and cost ??
5. Among several other such pertinent questions... one major question is Has the Bench and the Bar not come to introspect as to how the complication and delays of administration of justice is played by the state to unleash corruption and high-handedness of the statutory law enforcement bodies ?? Will the Bar and Bench disagree that there is total lack of fear of judiciary in the Law Enforcement Agencies and its employees who blatantly publicly abuse authority without fear of prosecution leaving the public at complete dismay ?? Why hasn't Bench taken a view to work out the process of administration of justice based on public survey's on opinion on judicial process and started working backwards --- As that is what Para 16 of Judicial Values entail !!!
Questions are Many. Problems are Many. Solutions -- Ask a group of Teenage school goers and answers may surface,... But unfortunately,.. with years and years of experience in the Bench and Bar has yet not been able to crack the bottleneck juggernaut. Irony or Weight of Legacy OR Institutional Corruption !!! I leave the reader to decide.
The SCBA has for long demanded that land measuring 1.33 acre allotted to the Supreme Court behind the petrol pump near ITO on the Ring Road be converted into chamber blocks for lawyers.
Who Said What
CJI DYC - “Mr Singh, I am the Chief Justice of India. I have been on the bench for long. I have never let myself be brow beaten by Bar members and I will not let it happen in the final two years of my tenure. You will be treated as an ordinary litigant. Please don’t force my hand to do something you don’t want,”
SCBA Prez Vikas Singh “ the matter was listed six times but was yet to be taken up for hearing and pointed out that he too had mentioned it three times. Indicating that the Bar is ready even for physical protests, the senior counsel said he did not want to take it to the judges’ residence.”
Responding sternly, the CJI asked Singh, “Is it a way to behave? I will not be cowered down like this. Sit down.”
SCBA Prez Singh continued, “Just because the Bar doesn’t do anything doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted. I feel strongly about this. (For) twenty years lawyers have been waiting to be allotted chambers.”
A short while later, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and N K Kaul representing the rival sides in petitions arising out of the Maharashtra political crisis, apologised to the CJI for what had happened.
Sr Adv Kapil Sibal said he was of the view that the Bar should not transgress limits of decorum which is required.
Justice P S Narasimha “For these 80 mentionings, when I say alright, I will give you a date in the evening, the staff and I sit through the evening…Then I give a date.”
Adv Kaul said, “We feel equally anguished by what happened and hurt.” The CJI thanked them before resuming the hearing.
What now [as on 07-Mar-2023]
- Members of the Bar expressing complete solidarity with the stand taken by the President SCBA in the Court of Hon'ble Chief Justice of India with regard to the Chambers construction issue in the newly allotted land;
- Issue appropriate Show Cause Notice to the concerned members(Sibal & Kaul) as mentioned in the resolution demanding their explanation; and
- Any mentioning done by a member of the Bar to belittle the stand taken by the SCBA in the Judicial proceeding should be highly condemned and in the future strict action be taken against such member.
- Judicial Ethics - https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/Judicial%20Ethics%20%20-%20by%20Ms%20B%20Gayathri.pdf
- Advocate Rules - http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/about/professional-standards/rules-on-professional-standards/
- Restatement of Values - https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/Notice/02112020_090821.pdf
- Judicial Corruption and MisBehavior - https://www.livelaw.in/judges-alleged-misbehaviour-lawyers-delhi-district-courts-go-strike-tomorrow/
- Heated Exchanges between CJI and SCBA President : https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/allotment-of-land-for-lawyers-heated-exchange-between-cji-dy-chandrachud-scba-president-vikas-singh/articleshow/98357329.cms?from=mdr
Topics to be touched –
- Judicial disrespect to public sentiment towards Judiciary when issuing statements not touched in order sheet.
- Judicial acknowledgement of gross corruption and injustice but no corrective actions.
- Layers upon Layers of procedures causing more delay in otherwise overloaded case scenario with lower ratio of Judges to Petitions.
- Gross abuse of power and lack of accountability.
- Lacking walking the talk.
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