Friday, June 2, 2023

Supreme Court reduces penalty of lawyer who accused another lawyer of taking money in the name of a High Court judge

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The Supreme Court has reduced the penalty imposed on a lawyer, who was punished for Contempt of Court, from Rs two lakh to Rs one lakh.

Hearing an appeal filed by the Advocate, the Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J.K. Maheshwari, however, upheld the sentence given to the advocate for raising frivolous allegations against another advocate that the latter was asking the parties to give him briefs and money in the name of one of the Judges of the High Court

As per the case, the appellant was a practicing advocate in the Calcutta High Court. When a Division Bench of the High Court was hearing FMA No.623 of 2022, he filed an application being CAN No.3 of 2022 against the lawyer for the opposite side.

He alleged that the other lawyer was asking the parties to give him briefs and money in the name of one of the Judges of the Bench. The Appellant also filed a complaint before the Calcutta Commissioner of Police on the matter.

The Division Bench of the High Court initiated suo motu Contempt of Court proceedings against the Appellant, who challenged the same before the Supreme Court in SLP(C)No.18622/2022.

The Apex Court, on November 14, 2022, disposed of the SLP on the basis of assurance and an undertaking given by the Appellant that he would tender an unconditional apology before the High Court and shall withdraw CAN No.3/2022 in FMA No.623/2022. 

The lawyer further undertook to assist the Bench so that the pending matter could be decided on merits, besides an undertaking that he shall not file any such application or conduct himself in the future to invite contempt proceedings. 

However, the Appellant did not abide by the undertaking given and continued filing conditional letters before the High Court, reiterating the allegations against members of the bar.

In its order passed on December 15 last year, the High Court held the Appellant guilty of Contempt of Court. It observed that there cannot be both apology and justification for an act; since the conduct of the lawyer had interfered with the administration of justice and lowered the dignity of the High Court. 

It also noted that the Advocate did not express any remorse over the incident. The High Court then directed the lawyer to deposit Rs two lakh with the Registrar General, saying that the sum would be refunded after a period of three years, in case the Appellant conducted himself respectfully. Otherwise, the amount would stand forfeited, it added. 

The Bench further said in the order that in case the sum was not deposited, the Commissioner of Police would take the lawyer in his custody. Since the Appellant failed to deposit Rs two lakh with the Court, he was arrested by the Police. The lawyer then preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court against this order.

The Apex Court had earlier directed release of the lawyer, if he deposited Rs one lakh in three days. As the Advocate deposited the amount, he was released. 

The Supreme Court, during the final hearing in the case, modified the High Court order dated December 15, 2022 to the extent of amount payable by the Appellant and reduced the same from Rs two lakh to Rs one lakh. 

The top court of the country observed that the amount of Rs one lakh would be refunded after two years to the Appellant, if his conduct did not give cause to initiate contempt proceedings in future. 

However, in case the Appellant’s conduct was not appropriate, then the amount shall stand forfeited and be paid to the State Legal Services Authority, it added.

(Case title: Gunjan Sinha Alias Kanishk Sinha vs The State of West Bengal & Anr)

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