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SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (L.B.) SUPREME COURT BAR ASSOCIATION V/S UNION OF INDIA Date of Decision: 17 April 1998 Citation: 1998 LawSuit(SC) 452
Hon'ble Judges: S C Agrawal, G N Ray, A S Anand, S P Bharucha, S Rajendra Babu Appeal Type: Writ Petition (C) Appeal No: 200 of 1995 Subject: Civil, Constitution Head Note: ADVOCATES ACT, 19 Power of the Supreme Court to determine if advocate was guilty of 'professional misconduct' Section 38 -- Constitution of India Articles 129 and 142 read with contempt of Court Act 1971, Section 12 -- Though the Supreme Court has power to punish for committing contempt of Court this power cannot be extended to include the power to determine whether the advocate is also guilty of professional misconduct without following the procedure. The power of the Supreme Court to punish for contempt of Court, though quite wide, is not limited and cannot be expanded to include the power to determine whether an advocate is also guilty of 'professional misconduct' in a summary manner, giving a 'go by' to the procedure prescribed under the Advocates Act. The power to do complete justice under Article 142 is in a way, corrective power, which gives preference to equity over law but it cannot be used to deprive a professional lawyer of the due process contained in the Advocates Act, 1961 by suspending his licence to practice in a summary manner, while dealing with a case of contempt of Court. Though the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Constitution cannot in any way be controlled by any statutory provisions but at the same time these powers are not meant to be exercised when their exercise may come directly in conflict with what has been expressly provided for in the statute dealing expressly with the subject. Appellate powers under Section 38 are available to Supreme Court and not to the High Court Section 38 -- Nothing is more destructive of public confidence in the administration of justice than incivility, rudeness or disrespectful conduct on the part of a counsel towards the Court on disregard by the Court of the
privileges of the Bar. In case the Bar Council, even after receiving reference from the Court, fails to take action against the concerned Advocate, this Court might consider invoking its powers under Section 38 of the Act by sending for the record of the proceedings from the Bar Council and passing appropriate orders. Of course, the appellate powers under Section 38 would be available to this Court only and not to the High Court. Though in a given case it may be possible for the Supreme Court or the High Court to prevent such advocate to appear before it till he purges himself of the contempt but that was much different from suspending or revoking his licence or debarring him to practise as an advocate. On account of contemptuous, contumacious and blameworthy conduct of the advocate, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to withdraw his privilege to practice as an advocate on record, because that privilege was conferred by the Supreme Court itself. The withdrawal of such privilege does not amount to suspending or revoking his licence to practise as an advocate in other Courts or Tribunal. APPEAL -- Power of the Supreme Court to punish advocate as appellate court -- The Supreme Court has no power to punish advocates for professional misconduct in exercise of appellate jurisdiction as it would amount to exercising of original jurisdiction. A complaint of professional misconduct is required to be tried by the Disciplinary Committee of Bar Council was a Court of Law. The enquiry to be conducted is a detailed and elaborate one and not of a summary nature. It is, therefore, not permissible for this Court to punish an Advocate for "professional misconduct" in exercise of the appellate jurisdiction by converting itself as the statutory body exercising "original jurisdiction". Indeed, if in a given case the concerned Bar Council on being...
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