Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Allahabad High Court starts contempt proceedings against lawyer for calling judges goondas

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The Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court has started contempt proceedings against a lawyer, who called the judges goondas.

This order was given by a Division Bench of Justices Rituraj Awasthi and Dinesh Kumar Singh on August 18, while registering a criminal contempt in this case by taking suo motu cognisance.

The Court observed, “We have to deal with a very unpleasant situation due to outrageous and utterly contemptuous behaviour of Advocate Ashok Pande inside the Court on the morning of August 18.

The facts which led to drawing these contempt proceedings are that as soon as the Court assembled in the morning, Mr Pande came to the podium.

He was in a civil dress with an unbuttoned shirt. When the Court asked him why he was not in uniform, he said that he had challenged the Bar Council Rules prescribing the Dress Code in PIL, therefore, he would not put on the uniform.

He, however, said that he was appearing in-person and therefore, it was not required for him to don the lawyers’ uniform. The Court told him that he should at least appear in a decent dress, if he was appearing in person. On this, he started questioning the Court, “What is a decent dress?”

The Court asked him to button his shirt, which he did not do. He created ruckus in the Court in the morning and the atmosphere of the Court got completely vitiated. Mr Pande used intemperate language, indulged in indecent behaviour amounting to gross misconduct and challenged the authority of the Court.

His conduct was unbecoming of a member of the legal profession. When he was warned that if he does not behave properly, the Court would have no option except to remove him from the Court, he challenged the Court and said that if the Court had power, it could remove him from the Court. He also used abusive language against the judges and said that the Judges were behaving like goondas.

Two days back on August 16, the Court had taken suo motu cognisance in respect of the Bar Association election, scheduled to be held on August 14. The Court was hearing the Returning Officer and Chairman of the Elders’ Committee of Awadh Bar Association, when Mr Pande barged in the Court and came to podium without uniform and started shouting on top of his voice, the Court noted.

When the Court asked him in what capacity he was addressing the Court, he said that he was a Member of the Awadh Bar Association and had every right to address the Court. When the Court asked why he was not in uniform, he said that would not don the advocate’s uniform as he had challenged the Bar Council Rules prescribing the Dress Code for Lawyers.

The Court said that the behaviour and conduct of Asok Pande would show that he had committed ex facie contempt of the Court. He has a long history of misbehaviour inside and outside the courtroom and committing contempt of the Court.

“When Pande did not stop and continued to create unpleasant atmosphere inside the Court and went on to disturb the Court proceedings amounting to interference with the administration of justice and scandalising the court, we called the Court Officer and the security to remove him from the Court Room, in order to maintain serenity and decorum of the Court proceedings, dignity of the High Court and majesty of law,” said the Bench.

The Court ordered to keep him in custody till 3 p.m., so that he could express his remorse and tender unconditional apology to the court for his outrageous behaviour.

A senior Member of the Bar, Mohd Arif Khan, mentioned the matter, stating that it may be given a quorom, if Pande could tender his unconditional apology.

The Court asked the respected Members of the Bar who would take responsibility for Mr Pande’s future behaviour in the Court. No respected Member came forward to guarantee his decent and appropriate behaviour in the Court in future. After release from custody at 3 p.m., Mr Pande again came to the Court and instead of tendering an apology or exhibiting any remorse, he again tried to disrupt the Court proceedings.

The Court also observed that Pande is habitual to instituting petitions either in his own name or in the name of the body, namely, Hindu Personal Law Board and repeated recourse to the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is undertaken by him, merely as a means of publicity and without any supervening cause or justification based on public interest.

The Court did not only dismiss the writ petition, but Pande was issued showcause notice why he should not be proceeded against for committing criminal contempt under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

The Court further directed that the petitions filed by Pande or in the name of Hindu Personal Law Board can be accepted only if it is accompanied by a Demand Draft of Rs 25,000 drawn on a nationalized Bank. The Demand Draft should be drawn in the name of the Senior Registrar of the High Court at Lucknow.

It was further observed that if the Court found that the petition was a genuine effort to espouse the cause in public interest, the Demand Draft would be ordered to be returned to the petitioner by the Court.

The Court also took notice of the fact that on numerous occasions, various Courts had found Pande to have indulged in drafting pleadings, which did not give credit to a member of the legal profession. The said writ petition was dismissed with costs of Rs 25,000, which was payable to the Uttar Pradesh Legal Services Authority.

The Court dismissed the application on the ground that he had absolutely no locus to address the Full Bench on merits of the writ petition.

The Court noted that Pande’s insulting behaviour, anger and revengeful attitude had obstructed the court proceedings. The Court had also noted that the writ petition was filed with intention to insult the Judges, lower the dignity of the Court and obstruct the judicial proceedings.

“We are drawing these contempt proceedings suo motu, finding prima facie the conduct, insinuation and insulting behaviour of Pande, Advocate towards judges and intemperate language used by him with an aim to disrupt the court proceedings and scandalise the Court and interfere with the administration of justice ex facie contemptuous,” added the Bench.

The Court held, “He has been habitual in making scandalous and scurrilous allegations against the Judges including the Chief Justices of this Court and even the Supreme Court Judges inside and outside the court. Despite warning, he did not mend his ways and exhibited his belligerent behaviour bringing down the majesty of the law and dignity of the High Court as such. Every attempt in the past has failed to correct his contemptuous conduct in the Court.

“Even punishments have not deterred him, and any leniency has only emboldened him for indulging in contemptuous behaviour, using intemperate and abusive language, insinuating, intimidating and insulting the judges and interfering with the administration of justice,” added the Bench.

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When the Bar Council of India has prescribed the ‘Dress Code’ in rules framed under Section 49 (I)(gg) of Act, a Lawyer cannot come to the Court not wearing the uniform and when he is pointed out he cannot say that since he has challenged the Bar Council Rules in PIL, therefore he would not wear the uniform prescribed by the Bar Council of India.

“In view thereof, we hold that Asok Pande has prima facie committed ex facie contempt of Court during the court proceedings on August 18, 2021 which amounts to scandalizing and lowering the authority of this Court and interference with due course of judicial proceedings and, it also has tendency to interfere or obstruct the administration of justice”, the Court observed.

“Besides initiating these contempt proceedings, we direct the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to examine the past conduct of Asok Pande, Advocate, detailed above in order to decide whether such a person is worthy of being part of the noble profession, and take appropriate disciplinary proceedings against Asok Pande. Let a copy of the order be sent to the Uttar Pradesh Bar Council for compliance,” the court ordered.

Order copy below:


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