Ombudsman for Legal Sector

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Government is working on a Bill that envisages an Ombudsman to look into the complaints against lawyers and a Legal Services Board that would regulate law practices in the country. Giving this information in written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Shri Salman Khurshid, Minister of Law & Justice informed the House that a draft Bill titled “Legal Practitioners (Regulation and Maintenance of Standards in Profession, Protecting the interest of Clients and Promoting the Rule of Law) Act, 2010” was drafted and uploaded in the website of the Ministry of Law & Justice inviting comments and suggestions of the stakeholders. Comments are being received. Shri Khurshid said the draft Bill will be reviewed based on these comments.

As per the proposed Bill, the complaints against the legal professionals will be examined by the Ombudsman and the report of the proposed Ombudsman will be forwarded to the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of the State with a copy to the proposed Legal Services Board. The Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council shall consider the report of the Ombudsman and if such report is not accepted by the Bar Council, the reasons for rejection of the recommendations of the Ombudsman shall be explained in detail and the same shall be published in the manner prescribed by rules. This will not in any way minimize the role of Bar Councils, Shri Salman Khurshid said.

However, Clauses 30-33 of the proposed draft Bill empower the Board to issue directions to the Bar Councils in certain specified circumstances and enables the Board to approach the High Court for enforcement of the directions if the Bar Councils fail to comply.

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No more ‘My Lord’, ‘Your Lordship’ in Punjab & Haryana HC

Ajay Sura, TIMES OF INDIA

CHANDIGARH: In a historical move to discard the colonial practice of addressing the judges of the high court as ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Lordship‘, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association on Thursday passed a resolution asking its members not to address the court using the traditional phrase ‘My Lord’.

In its resolution passed unanimously by around 4500 members strong lawyers association has decided that in future the judges should be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Your Honour’. The decision was taken in the general house meeting of the bar held in the jam-packed bar room of the high court on Thursday afternoon. With this, the Punjab and Haryana high court has become second high court in the country after Kerala high court advocates Association that had passed such resolution in June 2007 to take such step.

Talking to the development, President of the High Court Bar Association, Kulbir Singh Dhaliwal said that the bar body has unanimously resolved to stop addressing judges as ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Lordship’ from Thursday.

Dhaliwal further stated, “We passed the resolution to endorse the already existing rules in this concerned framed by the Bar Council of India (BCI) in 2006 that had resolved that the form of address in the Supreme Court and high courts should be ‘Your Honour’ or ‘Honourable Court’. About the forcibility of the resolution, Dhaliwal added that because of habit, some lawyers may continue to say ‘My Lord’, but gradually they will get used to the new phrase. He also said that bar has received positive response from the judges on this issue.

Background:

The BCI – apex body of the lawyers in country had adopted a resolution in April 2006 and added a new Rule 49(1)(j) in the Advocates Act. As per the rule, lawyers can address the court as ‘Your Honour’ and refer to it as ‘Honourable Court’. If it is a subordinate court, lawyers can use terms such as ‘Sir’ or any equivalent phrase in the regional language concerned. Explaining the rationale behind the move, the Bar Council had held that the words such as ‘My Lord’ and ‘Your Lordship’ were “relics of the colonial past”.

The resolution has since been circulated to all state councils and the Supreme Court for adoption but over five years now, the resolution largely remained on paper. However, in an unprecedented move in October 2009, one of the judges of Madras HC, Justice K Chandru had banned lawyers from addressing his court as ‘My lord’ and ‘Your lordship’

Counsel cannot be allowed to succeed in snatching an order in his favour by advancing threat, says Judge

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LETTER PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

CHENNAI: This is the letter dated July 2, 2009 written by R. Regupathi, the then Judge of the Madras High Court, to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court containing the relevant part where there is a specific reference to R.K. Chandramohan.

“On 12.06.2009, at about 2 p.m. during Lunch Recess, while I was in the Chamber, High Court, Madras, my Office Assistant, Mr. Mujibur Ali, informed me that Mr. Chandramohan, Chairman, Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, is waiting and seeking for an appointment to meet me and, immediately, I allowed him to come in. To start with, he discussed about the general subject on Advocates and so proceeding, he said that two persons, who are father and son/accused in a criminal case, are family friends of a Union Minister by name Raja, and that the petition filed by them for anticipatory bail must be considered favourably. Simultaneously, he handed over his mobile phone by saying that the Union Minister is on the line to have a talk with me. Right away, I discouraged such conduct of Mr. Chandramohan and told him that the case would be disposed of in accordance with law, if listed before me.

“Subsequently, on 29.06.2009, second anticipatory bail petition came to be filed for the same accused and on behalf of Mr. Chandramohan (counsel on record for the petitioners/accused), who was present in the court, Mr. Masood, Advocate, argued by stating that some new points need to be submitted and, for such purpose, the Case Diary must be summoned. Adverting to the counter filed by the prosecution and referring to the view I had already taken during the previous occasion and pointing out that there was no change of circumstance to positively consider the case of the petitioners, it was conveyed that there was no valid reason or ground to grant the prayer in the 2 {+n} {+d} petition. It was also observed that the counsel may argue the case in detail, however, this time orders would be passed on merits and they would not be allowed to withdraw the petition.

“Again, the counsel insisted that the case diary must be called for and the case be heard in detail with reference to the materials collected during the course of investigation. I have impressed upon the representing counsel by explicating that a like direction could be given to the prosecution only in the event of the Judge satisfying that such course is inevitable and absolutely necessary in a given situation and that, on mere demands and as a matter of routine, such exercise cannot be undertaken. At that time, Mr. Chandramohan stood up and made a similar demand and when I emphatically declined to accede to his adamant demand, he vociferously remarked that the court is always taking sides with the prosecution and not accepting the submissions made by the counsel for the accused while giving importance to the Prosecutor.

“On such pointless remark, I said that the counsel engaged to argue on his behalf has made his submission and he is not supposed to pass such slanderous and derogatory remarks; for, all these days, the court has been passing orders after hearing the parties and assessing the cases on their own merits and in accordance with law. In spite of that, Mr. Chandramohan insisted that the Case Diary must be summoned and the matter be adjourned to some other day. Since Mr. Chandramohan highly raised his voice and his approach towards the court was quarrelsome, I told him that a person like him, an advocate holding position as Chairman of a State Bar Council, should not behave in such a fashion. Still the learned Advocate was outburst and uncontrollable, and I observed that a counsel, who made an attempt to exert influence on the court by using the name of a Cabinet Minister, cannot be allowed to succeed in snatching an order in his favour by advancing threat. Due to such odd experience, I had to direct the Registry to place the papers before Your Lordship for obtaining orders to post the case before some other learned Judge.

“The case concerned was taken up at the end in the afternoon and inside the court hall, there were about 4 to 5 Advocates present and no one from the Press was there. That being so, the oral observations actually made came to be translated by the Print and Electronic Media with their own interpretations and ideas …….

“I have written this letter/report to apprise Your Lordship the actual state of affairs Involved.”

http://www.hindu.com/2010/12/08/stories/2010120857401400.htm

Court orders suspension of Chairman of Tamil Nadu Bar Council

High Court Madras

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JUDGE THREAT CASE

K.T. Sangameswaran IN THE HINDU

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered the suspension of the membership of R.K. Chandramohan and consequently his Chairmanship of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry (BCT) forthwith for an alleged attempt to influence a High Court Judge using the name of the then Union Minister A. Raja in a matter relating to an anticipatory bail plea.

In its 78-page common order on two public interest litigation petitions, a Division Bench comprising Justices F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and M.M. Sundresh said that apart from attempting to influence the Judge R. Regupathi (since retired), Mr. Chandramohan was stated to have behaved, in the words of the Judge, in a very unruly manner in the open court.

The Bench said the petitioner should file a formal complaint, along with the High Court order, to the BCT within two weeks. He should file a complaint copy with the Bar Council of India (BCI) simultaneously. Mr. Chandramohan should not be permitted by the State Bar Council to function as chairman pending disposal of the disciplinary action by the BCI.

In a petition, the petitioner, Elephant G. Rajendran, sought a writ against Mr. Chandramohan directing him to explain under what authority he held the office as Chairman of BCT. In the other petition, he sought a direction to the BCI to initiate appropriate action against the BCT Chairman.

The petitioner submitted that an anticipatory bail application filed by a medical practitioner came up before Justice Regupathi on June 29 last year and Mr. Chandramohan appeared on behalf of the accused. During the hearing, the Judge stated that “a Union Minister had called me to exert influence in favour of accused and to release the petitioner/accused on anticipatory bail. You yourself know everything.”

The petitioner contended that Mr. Chandramohan’s conduct in casting aspersions against the Judge was gross contempt and interfered with the administration of justice. He had used the name of a Union Minister for achieving an illegal action. Therefore, he should be disqualified from the post.

Following a direction from the Judge, the High Court Registry produced a letter dated July 2, 2009, written by the Judge to the Chief Justice of Madras High Court in which he had stated that on June 12, 2009 while he was in his chamber, Mr. Chandramohan met him and said that two persons who were family friends of the Union Minister had filed the petition for anticipatory bail in a criminal case and it must be considered favourably. He also handed over his mobile phone saying that the Union Minister was on the line to talk to the Judge.

Right away, the Judge said, he discouraged such conduct and told Mr. Chandramohan that the case would be disposed of in accordance with law. On June 29, in the open court the advocate vociferously remarked that the court was always taking sides with the prosecution and not accepting the submission made by the counsel for the accused in the case while giving importance to the prosecutor. Later, the Judge directed the Registry to place the papers before the Chief Justice for posting the case before some other Judge.

In its order, the Bench said there was no reason to doubt the veracity of the Judge’s statement in the absence of allegations of ill will or mala fides against the Judge. The conduct of the BCI Chairman in having maintained silence in his counter affidavit went to show to a very large extent that in effect he admitted the allegations. He neither repented nor displayed any conduct of remorse. If really such an incident had not taken place, the first person to have refuted the Judge’ s statement should have been Mr. Chandramohan.

The Bench observed that the Judge’s reaction was much more courteous than was expected. What had been alleged against Mr. Chandramohan by the Judge did call for stringent action at that point of time itself by handing him over to the appropriate authorities. Unfortunately, Mr. Chandramohan instead of realising the Judge’s magnanimous attitude displayed a much more disastrous attitude by behaving in an unruly manner in the court hall when the Judge had no other option except to reveal in the open court the monstrous and unpardonable behaviour of the advocate.

It said the magnitude of the behaviour of Mr. Chandramohan “was unprecedented and the same had to be dealt with an iron hand to ensure that such a behaviour was not even dreamt to be attempted by any other unscrupulous element under the garb of wearing the glorious robes of an advocate.”

Having regard to the order passed and directions issued, the Bench said it was not now inclined to take any proceedings for contempt.

http://www.hindu.com/2010/12/08/stories/2010120857391400.htm