Neeraj Garg V. Sarita Rani and Ors. Etc.
Civil Appeal Nos. 4555-4559 of 2021
(Arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 8643-8647 of 2021), Decided on August 02, 2021
BENCH: Rohinton Fali Nariman J, Hrishikesh Roy, J.
An appeal was filed by one Mr. Neeraj Garg (hereinafter referred to as “Appellant”), a practising lawyer before the High Court of Uttarakhand with an experience of 17 years as a member of the Bar. That the present appeal was filed against certain observations made against the Appellant herein by the learned Judge of the High Court while deciding four cases, namely “W.P. (M/S) No.2216 of 2017 and W.P. (M/S) No.2208 of 2017 titled Vira Wali Manga Vs. Sarita Rani, S.A. No.190/2019 titled Landour Community Hospital V. Sandeep Bishnoi. S.A. No. 182 of 2019 titled Vinod Kumar V. Mandir Laxmi, W.P. (M/S) No. 519 of 2019 titled Parul Prakash V. Anil Prakash.” in which the Appellant was representing as one of the contesting parties. The remarks made against the Appellant by the Learned Counsel in the above mentioned cases are enunciated herein below:
“The counsel for the petitioner is a seasonal advocate he owes a responsibility towards the institution and fraternity too, he had deliberately created a wrong example for the pious institution.”
The remarks made in the judgment, S.A. 182 of 2019 dated 12.03.2020 by the Ld. Judge are enunciated herein below:
“2. In the present Second Appeal , when the argument for the learned counsel for the appellant was initiated too be addressed for quite some time, this Court is of the view that the tenacity of argument of the learned counsel for the plaintiff/ appellant was in a manner as if, he was intentionally attempting to make a mountain of a mole, which this Court will not hesitate to re mark that was a brutal assassination of time for those other litigants, whose matters were pending consideration on the said date before this Court. ‘It further reflected that as if it was not an argument for the case but rather for the visitors’ gallery.”
The remarks recorded in the case W.P. (M/S) 519 of 2019, dated 22.02.2021 by the Learned Judge were:
“2. Though this Court should have avoided to make this remark, but owning to the deliberate and intentional, modus operandi, which is normally adopted, which has now, become a regular feature, almost in most of the cases, which are filed by the learned counsel for the petitioner, this Court is constraint to make certain observations, which has been invariably found, to be followed by the learned Counsel, basically intended so as 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, making the records of the Writ Petition, running into several volumes, and that too in a writ jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, which is arising of the concurrent judgments.”
The Counsel for the Appellant contended that the above mentioned remarks/observations were made by the Learned Judge against the Appellant without putting the counsel to notice or providing any hearing to him. It was further contended by the Counsel for the Appellant that such adverse comments not only undermine the professional reputation of the Appellant but also impact his standing and practise as a lawyer. It was contended that as the Presiding Judge, before his elevation on 19.05.2017 to the Bench, was a member of the same Bar as the Appellant and both were rival counsel in several contested matters, the comments may have emanated from personal prejudice and may not be otherwise warranted.
Hence aggrieved, the Appellant herein filed an appeal before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to expunge the remarks made against him by the learned Judge of the High Court while deciding the abovementioned four cases.
Whether the judges should make unnecessary remarks on the conduct of the Council which may have no bearing on the adjudication of the dispute before the Hon’ble Court?
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the present case held that 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 before the Court.
After having perused the offending comments recorded in the High Court judgments, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India held that those could have been avoided as they were unnecessary for deciding the disputes. The Hon’ble Court further agreed with the contentions of the Counsel for the Appellant that the remarks made by the Learned Judge appears to be based on the personal perception of the Learned Judge and it is also apparent that the Learned Judge did not, before recording the adverse comments, gave 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. The requisite degree of restraint and sobriety expected in such situations is also found to be missing in the offending comments.
The Hon’ble Court further held 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. If the comments remain unexpunged in the court judgments, it will be a cross that the Appellant will have to bear, all his life and thus will be prejudicial and unjust. The Hon’ble Court after considering the aftermaths of such remarks passed by the Learned Judge held that the offending remarks recorded by the learned judge against the Appellant should not have been recorded in the manner it was done, being unnecessary for the decision of the Court and also the Appellant whose professional conduct was questioned, was not provided any opportunity to explain his conduct or defend himself. The Hon’ble Court expunging the remarks of the judgment held that the offending remarks should be recalled to avoid any future harm to the Appellant’s reputation or his work as a member of the Bar.