SC sentences lawyer to 3 months in jail for contempt, suspends term on apology


New Delhi
The Supreme Court Wednesday sentenced lawyer Mathews J Nedumpara to three months in jail for contempt of court and attempting to browbeat judges in a matter related to awarding of the 'senior advocate' designation.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran suspended the sentence as he tendered an unconditional apology and undertaking that he will never attempt to browbeat any judge either in the Supreme Court or the Bombay High Court.
The bench however barred Nedumpara from practising as an advocate in the apex court for one year.
The bench also issued a fresh contempt notice to Nedumpara and three others for scandalous allegations they made against both the judges of the bench.
It said serious allegations have been levelled against both the members of the bench in a letter received by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and other judges of the apex court.
It requested the CJI to constitute an appropriate bench to hear the fresh contempt issue.

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The apex court had on March 12 held Nedumpara guilty of contempt for taking a senior lawyer's name to allege that sons and daughters of judges were given priority in awarding of the 'senior advocate' designation.
The top court had said that he attempted to browbeat the courts and his conduct deserved severe punishment.
"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," it said.
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 lawyers body had challenged validity of Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961, which stated there should be two classes of advocates.
The top court had dismissed the plea and said that "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 had said that it was not the first time that Nedumpara had 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," it said

The court further noted that Nedumpara had "misconducted himself repeatedly" before the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Bombay and before the Bombay High Court and "was 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 had said.

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First Published: Mar 27 2019 | 4:45 PM IST

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