The Supreme Court has chastised advocates for approaching the media to attribute “political colours” to judgments, saying it was the “gravest form of contempt” and that “such black sheep” should be removed from the profession to protect the integrity of the institution.
“It has been seen from time to time that various attacks have been made on the judicial system. It has become very common to the members of the Bar to go to the… media to criticise the judges in person and to commit sheer contempt by attributing political colours to the judgments. It is nothing less than an act of contempt of the gravest form,” a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran said in a judgment uploaded on Wednesday.
“Whenever any political matter comes to the court and is decided, either way, political insinuations are attributed by unscrupulous persons/advocates. Such acts are nothing but an act of denigrating the judiciary itself and destroys the faith of the common man… in the judicial system,” the court added.
The observations come at a time several crucial issues are pending in the top court — such as the Ayodhya land dispute, the Rafale deal, the CBI row — and several others — such as those related to the death of Judge B.H. Loya and PILs filed by NGO Common Cause and others questioning the integrity of then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra — have been disposed of.
The apex court made the observations while striking down certain rules framed by Madras High Court to take disciplinary action such as debarring advocates who indulge in violence or other indiscipline such as intimidating judges or taking bribes from clients by promising favourable verdicts.
The rules had been challenged by advocate R. Muthukrishnan on the ground that the high court had no power to frame them as only the state bar councils or the Bar Council of India could do so. The Supreme Court quashed the rules as impermissible and upheld the argument of the petitioner.
“The debarment cannot be ordered by the high court until and unless (the) advocate is prosecuted under the Contempt of Courts Act. It cannot be resorted to by undertaking disciplinary proceedings as contemplated under the Rules 14A to 14D as amended in 2016 (by the high court). That is a clear usurpation of the power of the Bar Council and is wholly impermissible,” Justice Arun Mishra, who authored the judgment, said.
He, however, went on to rebuke advocates and directed the Bar Council of India to amend the rules to take action against them.
“In case of genuine grievance against any judge, the appropriate process is to lodge a complaint to the concerned higher authorities who can take care of the situation and it is impermissible to malign the system itself by attributing political motives and by making false allegations against the judicial system and its functionaries. Judges who are attacked are not supposed to go to… media to ventilate their point of view.
“The hunger for cheap publicity is increasing, which is not permitted by the noble ideals cherished by the great doyens of the bar, they have set by their conduct what should be in fact the professional etiquettes and ethics which are not capable of being defined in a narrow compass.
“It is making it more difficult to render justice in a fair, impartial and fearless manner though the situation is demoralising that something has to be done by all concerned to revamp the image of the Bar. It is not open to wash dirty linen in public and enter into accusation/debates, which tactics are being adopted by unscrupulous elements to influence judgments and even to deny justice with ulterior motives,” Justice Mishra observed.
The court said soul-searching was necessary and that the blame game and maligning must stop immediately.
The bench said it was the duty of the Bar to protect honest judges and not to ruin their reputation and at the same time to ensure that corrupt judges were not spared.
“However, lawyers cannot go to the streets or go on strike except when democracy itself is in danger and the entire judicial system is at stake. In order to improve the system, they have to take recourse to legally available methods by lodging complaints against corrupt judges to the appropriate administrative authorities and not to level such allegation in the public. Corruption is intolerable in the judiciary,” the court said.
It also said there was no room for taking out processions on court premises, raising slogans, deploying loudspeakers, using intemperate language against judges and disturbing the peaceful, respectful and dignified functioning of the courts.
“Its sanctity is not less than that of a holy place reserved for noble souls. We are shocked to note that the instances of abject misbehaviour of the advocates in the premises of the high court of Madras resulting in requisitioning of the CISF to maintain the safety and majesty of the court and the rule of law,” the Supreme Court said.