Mumbai: High court orders enquiry over ‘unethical and illegal’ practices in its Registry

Mumbai: Observing that some illegal and unethical practices are prevailing in its Registry, the Bombay High Court recently ordered an enquiry against the officials of the registry’s criminal side. The HC was so disturbed with the illegal practices that it warned the Registrar (Judicial) of holding him responsible if he failed to initiate enquiry against his subordinates.

A division bench of Justice Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Justice Prakash Naik was disturbed to note that some advocates and litigants were resorting to some tactics like filing multiple vakalatnamas and also changing advocates, to obtain favourable orders. The judges were unhappy to note that despite these tactics being illegal and against the norms, the officials handling criminal matters in the registry were accepting these vakalatnamas.

Justice Dharmadhikari said, “We are noticing a very disturbing trend wherein at the stage of admission of criminal appeals by a single or many accused, a joint vakalatnama is filed by either one or many advocates on behalf of all the accused. Thereafter, strategies are worked out and at the stage of seeking temporary bail, the advocates who initially appeared, take a back seat and new sets of advocates file fresh vakalatnamas. This is being done even without discharging the initial advocates and the same is accepted by the Registry.”

“We do not know how, contrary to the rules, the Registry accepts such vakalatnamas. It is definitely a tactical or strategical step so as to either indulge in Bench hunting or Bench avoidance. A person whose liberty is at stake is bound to take such a chance and, therefore, gets an encouragement through professionals to find convenient Benches for listing of their matters. The registry blindly obliges to such vakalatnamas and how such vakalatnamas remain on record is still a mystery,” Justice Dharmadhikari added. The judges further said that such illegal practices continue to exist despite bringing them to the notice of Registrar and other superiors of the registry.

Justice Dharmadhikari said, “We have been impressing upon them to hold inquiries and seek explanations from the guilty officials in the Registry as also the advocates involved. They should be boldly named, is our expectation. Somehow or the other these oral directions do not find compliance.”

“The Registry thus becomes a party to several unhealthy, unethical practices and sometimes knowingly. It is rather surprising that these illegal and unethical practices are ignored by the Registrar General, Registrar Judicial­ I and II. We are constrained, therefore, to direct the Registrar (Judicial) to hold an inquiry and if he fails to do so, we will hold him responsible for what is going on in the Criminal department of the Bombay High Court appellate side Registry, Justice Dharmadhikari added. Posting the matter on April 3, the judges have directed Registrar (Judicial) to submit his probe report.

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