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Stripping lawyer of senior designation like a death warrant

NEW DELHI (CU)_Yatin Oza, a senior lawyer convicted for contempt of court, was stripped of his cloak by the Gujarat High Court. This being only the second such case in judicial history, the Supreme Court  was in agreement that stripping a lawyer of his  “ senior advocate” designation is parallel to that of a professional death warrant  and is striving to attain a middle path to enable restoration of his designation. 

A combination of convincing pitches were put before a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta by renowned senior advocates A M Singhvi, C A Sundaram, Arvind Datar and Dushyant Dave. These pitches stretched from Oza’s unqualified apology, his solemn promise never ever to repeat the festering contumacious conduct, and lastly about his family lineage.

Singhvi’s made a valiant attempt to save the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association office bearer was a mix of apology, a veiled reasoning for Oza’s doings even though he too admitted it was not a justification, and finally an emotive appeal to the SC to put Oza on leash for returning him the hard-earned ‘senior advocate’ designation. “Oza is without the senior gown for the last seven months. A child is born after nine months. Allow him to wear his senior gown again after nine months, of which he has already suffered seven months,” he said.

Justice Kaul-led bench said: “If this was the first episode, we would agree with you. Problem is that he has done it repeatedly. If a leader of the bar behaves in this manner, what does he teach the juniors? All of us commit mistakes. But, we correct ourselves. But, he kept repeating the mistakes. That is why the HC took the drastic step.”

While the bench did not believe in a drastic measure philosophy, their concern was what should be the nature of order that could be passed by the court to keep Oza restrained from repeating his contumacious conduct in future. Advocate Nikhil Goel Appearing for the HC said that it was the contemptuous repetition of contumacious charges against the HC that had forced initiation of the contempt proceedings and the withdrawal of senior advocate designation. “He can apply again if he wants the senior designation back,” he said.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave said that Oza has paid the price and suffered the punishment. He further said it was the contemptuous repetition of contumacious charges against the HC that had forced initiation of the contempt proceedings and the withdrawal of senior advocate designation. “He can apply again if he wants the senior designation back,” he said.

Justice Kaul-led bench said: “We believe that there is always a possibility of redemption. Think of some via media path. We can give him back his senior gown as an interim measure and watch his conduct. We are just giving an idea of the middle path. Please consider this.” It asked the HC to consider the proposal and adjourned hearing to March 10.

Senior Advocate R K Anand was convicted by the Deli High Court in 2008 for contempt of court where in he was seeking the course of justice in the infamous BMW hit-and-run case in order to help the accused Sanjeev Nanda who hailed from a rich upper class family who in the accident mowed down six innocent persons while driving under the influence of liquor. In this instance the HC stripped Anand of his “senior designation”.

The SC had upheld the decision and said, “it needs to be made clear that the occasion to take recourse to the extreme step of debarring an advocate from appearing in court should arise very rarely and only as a measure of last resort in cases where the wrongdoer advocate does not at all appear to be genuinely contrite and remorseful for his act/conduct, but on the contrary shows a tendency to repeat or perpetuate the wrong act(s).”

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