Read Order: Neeraj Garg vs. Sarita Rani & Ors

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, August 5, 2021: The Supreme Court has held that offending remarks recorded by a High Court judge against a practicing advocate should not have been recorded in the manner in which it was done, directing that the remarks be recalled to avoid any future harm to the appellant advocate’s reputation or his work as a member of the Bar. 

The Division Bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed that if the comments remain unexpunged in the court judgments, it would be prejudicial and unjust. It further observed that the tenor of the remarks recorded against the appellant will not only demean him amongst his professional colleagues but may also adversely impact his professional career.

“While it is of fundamental importance in the realm of administration of justice to allow the judges to discharge their functions freely and fearlessly and without interference by anyone, it is equally important for the judges to be exercising restraint and avoid unnecessary remarks on the conduct of the counsel which may have no bearing on the adjudication of the dispute,” observed the Bench.

The appellant, a practicing lawyer in High Court of Uttarakhand with around 17 years standing as member of the Bar, had approached the Apex Court seeking expungement of certain observations made against him by a Judge of the High Court while deciding four cases in which the appellant was representing one of the contesting parties. 

The senior counsel for the appellant, Mukul Rohatgi, submitted that the remarks/observations made by the High Court Judge against the advocate were recorded without putting the counsel to notice or providing any hearing to him, before recording the adverse comments.

The counsel and the Amicus Curiae further submitted that adverse comments would not only undermine the professional reputation of the Appellant but would also impact his standing and practice as a lawyer.

The counsel solicited the attention over the displeasure recorded by the High Court in W.P.(M/S) 519 of 2019, wherein it was remarked that “the appellant had intended to mislead the Court or to avoid an adjudication of the case on merits and to pose the difficulty to the Court, at the time of hearing of the Writ Petition itself at admission stage, itself, by putting uncalled for documents, which are not even relevant, including the copy of the citation/judgments, on which he wants to rely, as part of the records of the Writ Petition”. 

In Alok Kumar Roy vs. Dr. S.N. Sarma, Justice C.K.Wanchoo speaking for the Apex Court had emphasized that even in cases of justified criticism, the language employed must be of utmost restraint. Justice Wanchoo also said that use of carping language to disapprove of the conduct of the Counsel would not be an act of sobriety, moderation or restraint, observed Justice Hrishikesh Roy. 

Similarly, the Top Court found that importance of avoiding unsavory remarks in judicial orders as per established norms of judicial propriety has also been succinctly noted in Abani Kanta Ray Vs. State of Orissa by Justice J.S. Verma, by stating that use of intemperate language or making disparaging remarks against anyone, unless that be the requirement for deciding the case, would be inconsistent with judicial behaviors. 

Reiterating that the offending comments appear to be based on the personal perception of the Judge, the Bench said it is apparent that the Judge did not, before recording the adverse comments, give any opportunity to the Appellant to put forth his explanation. 

“The remarks so recorded have cast aspersion on the professional integrity of the appellant. Such condemnation of the Counsel, without giving him an opportunity of being heard would be a negation of the principles of audi alteram partem,” added the Division Bench. 

The Top Court therefore ordered expunction of the extracted remarks made by the High Court Judge. 

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