New Delhi, December 1: Hearing a suo motu petition on the condition of child care homes during Covid-19, the judges on a Supreme Court bench had to point out to a lawyer that a shirtless man was standing next to him.

The incident happened in the Supreme Court virtual courtroom presided by Justice LN Rao. While the hearing was on, a bare-chested person adjusting the camera of standing counsel, G Prakash, for the Kerala government appeared on screen.

The bench called out to the lawyer appearing on the screen, “Someone is standing beside you who is shirtless.” There was no response from the other end and the next moment, the link with the lawyer could not be established. The bare-chested person was also a lawyer, ML Jishnu, who is related to Prakash, the Hindustan Times reported.

Irked by the behaviour of the lawyer in question, the bench, also comprising Justice Hemant Gupta, said, “Even after seven to eight months of telling lawyers to be careful during video conferencing, you (advocates) are so reckless.”

“I was not able to hear or see the courtroom. Before the hearing started, the link was connected but later it disappeared. It was during that time somebody was helping to fix the system for me. But I was fully dressed up in my advocate robe and because my device faced technical glitch I was unable to hear or see what happened in the court,” advocate Prakash told Hindustan Times.

This is the second incident of a lawyer appearing without a shirt at the Supreme Court within a span of two months.

On October 27, another lawyer appeared shirtless during the hearing of a case before a bench presided by Justice DY Chandrachud. The judge had then remarked, “Some decorum has to be maintained by lawyers while appearing before us. Caution must be taken in future.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta called the behaviour “unpardonable”.

The lawyer who was involved then was MS Suvidutt who wrote to Mehta and the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association President that he was attending the Vidyarambam (initiation of education) of his niece with his camera off. He expressed regret and apology for his inadvertent act.

In June, the apex court hauled up a lawyer for appearing in a T-shirt lounging on his bed. The bench remarked, “Minimum court etiquette in terms of what can be considered a decent dress, background, etc should be followed given the public nature of the hearings.” The lawyer was let off on offering an unconditional apology.

Such incidents have also happened at the state level.

Since the videoconferencing proceedings started in March, lawyers across high courts too have been caught eating food, appearing in casual dress lying on the bed, and even chewing gutka.

In May, the Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar issued a notification allowing lawyers to shun their long robes and coats while appearing before the court through videoconferencing.

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