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Sitting and former SC bar association chiefs clash over senior lawyer’s manhandling


Lawyers have no right to request, much less force, a court to stop hearing cases because of strikes, the Supreme Court said on Monday after a dispute emerged between a sitting and a former bar association leader of the top court over the resolution of a case that involved the manhandling of senior lawyer Gauarv Bhatia within the premises of a district court in Greater Noida.

The Supreme Court of India. (PTI File Photo)

While the current president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and senior counsel Adish Aggarwala proposed the closure of the case after the lawyer’s body of Greater Noida expressed remorse over the incident on March 20, former SCBA president and senior lawyer Vikas Singh vehemently opposed the notion of closing the case without fixing accountability on the erring lawyers.

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The senior counsel presented contrasting views as a bench led by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud took up suo motu proceedings that were initiated on the court’s own motion on March 21 after a group of lawyers, including attorney general R Venkataramani, complained against the incident and sought strict action.

Bhatia, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, reportedly had his band snatched inside a district court on March 20 where lawyers were observing a strike. Another lawyer, Muskan Gupta, was also assaulted. On March 21, the top court issued notice to the president and other office-bearers of the Gautam Budh Nagar Bar Association (GBNBA), besides seeking a report from the concerned district judge.

When the hearing commenced on Monday, Aggarwala said he communicated with the GBNBA’s office-bearers who have expressed regret for the events on March 20, and that the proceedings could be dropped.

However, Singh objected by highlighting the significance of the incident as a breach of professional conduct and a violation of the sanctity of legal premises. The former bar leader called for a more stringent review and disciplinary measures against those involved.

At this point, the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, emphasised that the lawyers involved in the incident will not get away merely by filing affidavits of apology.

“We are going to take a serious view despite their apology. We won’t accept their apology… This we won’t take lightly – asking judicial officers and others not to work. We are taking a dim view. No lawyer can compel another to leave the court,” remarked the bench.

Pitching in, Aggarwala, however, said that lawyers have the right to “request” the court for the observation of a strike. While Singh intervened to cite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that held lawyers have no right to go on strike or give a call for boycott, the CJI too disagreed with Aggarwala.

“Not at all! They have no right to request the court to desist from hearing a case. Lawyers cannot say ‘hum aapko aane hi nahi denge’ (will not let you enter courts). Not done,” said the CJI.

The bench added: “Protest is not strike. Whatever lawful form you have, you can protest so long people are not stopped from entering courts. You cannot ask lawyers to go out of courts. We are going to take a very strong view of this.”

During the proceedings, the bench also took note of non-maintenance of CCTV cameras in the court premises despite repeated requests made by the Allahabad high court to the state government. It put the state on notice and fixed the next hearing on April 8.



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