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Regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024
‘Muted’ lawyer ‘deeply saddened’

Judges afraid of the Bar, says Dushyant Dave

The SCBA chief says he will refrain from attending any event organised by the Supreme Court till his term ends in December

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 03.09.20, 03:30 AM
Dushyant Dave

Dushyant Dave Telegraph picture

The Supreme Court has come to a level where judges are afraid of the Bar, Supreme Court Bar Association president Dushyant Dave wrote in a letter to the Chief Justice of India on Wednesday, after he was denied a chance to speak at the farewell to Justice Arun Mishra.

Dave, a forthright lawyer who was part of Prashant Bhushan’s legal team in the criminal contempt case and who had contributed more than Rs 1 crore out of his own pocket towards a Covid relief fund for advocates, said he was “deeply saddened” and would not participate in any event organised by the Supreme Court till his term as SCBA chief ended in December.

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By convention, the SCBA, which represents the Supreme Court’s lawyers, holds a farewell for a judge on the day of their retirement. The farewell address is delivered by the SCBA president.

But Justice Mishra, who headed the bench that convicted Bhushan of “criminal contempt” amid outrage and protests by lawyers, had cited the pandemic and said he did not want the farewell.

Traditionally, on their last day in office, the retiring judge sits in the Chief Justice’s court. This convention was followed and Justice Mishrasat with Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, in proceedings that were held through videoconference.

After the matters were disposed of, a brief farewell was held, to which attorney-general Venugopal, SCBA chief Dave and Supreme Court Advocates on Records Association (SCORA) president Shivaji Yadav were invited.

While the attorney-general, solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, former attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi and Shivaji Yadav got to speak, Dave said he was deliberately “muted”. Once he realised he was not being allowed to speak, the SCBA president logged out of the proceedings and wrote a letter of protest to the Chief Justice.

The Telegraph contacted the office of the Chief Justice of India for a clarification, but there was no official response.

Sources in the National Informatics Centre, which handles e-conferencing, said if at all Dave had been unable to speak it was because of technical glitches of the sort faced every day even by judges during hearings.

Dave, in his letter to the Chief Justice, said the audio and video were fine.

The text of his letter follows:

“As president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, I wish to place on record my strong disappointment and condemnation at what happened earlier today in the Supreme Court of India during the farewell to Justice Arun Mishra.

“I got a link this morning at 10.06 to join the Ceremonial Bench of the Chief Justice of India at 12.30pm from the Team SCI VC and which was sent on WhatsApp by the concerned registrar. I responded at 10.16, accepting it, which was acknowledged by the registrar at 10.18.

“I joined through the link around 12.20pm and was confirmed by the Team, saying Video and Audio were perfect. I then had conversations with the AG, the SG, President SCORA, amongst others. Once the court assembled, I saw and heard all the proceedings clearly. At the end, Mr Rohtagi bid farewell.

“After court work, Mr Venugopal was requested to speak and I saw and heard him fully, including as to his disappointment on the punishment of Shri Prashant Bhushan.

(Venugopal had said in his speech that he would personally have been happy had no punishment been meted out to Bhushan for contempt.)

“When he ended, I thought that I will be requested to speak, instead Mr Jadhav was requested knowing full well I was present. For some unknown reasons, I was being disconnected again and again but I persisted and rejoined each time. I saw and heard Shri Jadhav fully and at the end of his address again I was not requested to speak, though Shri Jadhav acknowledged my presence in his address.

“After that Your Lordship spoke, which I saw and heard, and then invited Justice Mishra to speak. At that stage, realising the game plan, I exited in the larger interests of the dignity of the Bar and myself.”

The text of his letter added: “But what is most important is that I messaged the secretary general on WhatsApp at 12.49 and again at 12.53, asking why I was kept on mute and why was I at all invited. Only at 1.02 he responded, saying he is instructing the registrar to look into it, by which time it was too late and so I messaged him informing that I had exited.

“The entire episode leaves much to be desired on the part of this great institution. The whole attempt was to prevent me from addressing on behalf of the SCBA and its EC, after having invited and the invitation having been accepted. This was clearly an affront to the Bar and to me personally.

“While you may have done so fearing that I might say something unpleasant, let me tell you exactly what I was to say which I had written down.”

Dave then reproduced the speech that he had intended to read out at the farewell.

The letter continued: “I must confess, the Supreme Court has come to such levels where the judges are afraid of the Bar. Please do remember, judges come and go but we the Bar remain constant. We are the real strength of this great institution because we are permanent.

“I must say, I am personally deeply saddened by this event and will never again participate in any function being organised by the Supreme Court till my term is over in December.”

Dave is known for his forthright views and criticism of the present BJP government.

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