The Supreme Court on Tuesday held advocate Mathews J Nedumpara guilty of contempt for taking a senior lawyer's name to allege that sons and daughters of judges were given priority in awarding 'senior advocate' designation, saying that he has attempted to browbeat the courts and his conduct deserves severe punishment.
While dismissing a plea filed by Nedumpara's organisation challenging the method of designation of senior advocates, a bench comprising justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Vineet Saran issued notice to the lawyer on the punishment to be imposed on him for committing contempt of court and sought his response within two weeks
"We are of the view that the only reason for taking the senior advocate's name, without there being any relevance to his name in the present case, is to browbeat the court and embarrass one of us.....
"Conduct of this kind deserves punishment which is severe. Though we could have punished Nedumpara by this order itself, in the interest of justice, we issue notice to Nedumpara as to the punishment to be imposed upon him for committing contempt in the face of the court," the bench said.
The top court had earlier expressed displeasure over Nedumpara's reference to a noted jurist while alleging that sons and daughters of judges were given preferential treatment in awarding the designation of 'senior advocate'.
The development comes days after the apex court decided to initiate contempt proceedings against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan who had tweeted that the government had submitted to the apex court fabricated documents of the high-powered selection panel on the appointment of interim CBI chief.
The contempt case against Nedumpara arose when he was arguing a petition filed by his organisation National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms challenging the current system of designation of lawyers as Senior Advocates.
The top court dismissed the plea and said,"Insofar as the writ petition is concerned, the writ petition, in essence, seeks a second review of our judgment reported in 'Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India through Secretary General and Ors'.
"Even otherwise, it is settled law that an Article 32 petition does not lie against the judgment of this Court. We are also of the view that Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961 is a provision which cannot be said to be unconstitutional and the designation of senior advocate cannot be as a matter of bounty or as a matter of right."
In a stinging rebuke, the court said that this is not the first time that Nedumpara has attempted to browbeat and insult judges of the apex court.
"In point of fact, the style of this particular advocate is to go on arguing, quoting Latin maxims, and when he finds that the court is not with him, starts becoming abusive. We also find that this advocate is briefed to appear in hopeless cases and attempts, by browbeating the court, to get discretionary orders, which no Court is otherwise prepared to give.
"We have found that the vast majority of appearances by this advocate before us have been in cases in which debtors have persistently defaulted, as a result of which their mortgaged properties have to be handed over to secured creditors to be sold in auction," it said.
The court noted that Nedumpara has "misconducted himself repeatedly" before the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Bombay and before the Bombay High Court and "is in the habit of terrorising Tribunal members and using intemperate language to achieve his ends before several judges of the Bombay High Court".
"This judgment is to be circulated to the Chief Justice of every High Court in this country, the Bar Council of India, and the Bar Council of Kerala, through the Secretary General, within a period of four weeks from today," it said.
Nedumpara had alleged that the provision for giving the senior advocate designations was violative of the right to equality and discriminatory as sone sons of judges were being given priority.
The lawyers body had challenged validity of Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961, which stated there should be two classes of advocates.
He had submitted that the advocates who have 30 or 35 years of practice and have crossed 60 years of age should be declared as senior advocates.
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