Respect judiciary, SC tells lawyer stripped of senior advocate status

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday called for respect to the institution of judiciary, asking the bar and bench to work together to set an example for the young lawyers.

"If you do not respect the institution, then how will youngsters respect it," asked Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Ajay Rastogi in the course of the hearing of a petition by senior Gujarat lawyer Yatin Oza, whose status as the senior advocate was stripped off by the full court of the Gujarat High Court on July 18, taking cognizance of alleging wide-spread corruption in the High Court registry in his media interaction, and the contempt proceedings were initiated against him.

As senior counsel Arvind Datar and Shekhar Naphde told the court that lawyers were passing through difficult times since courts are not functioning in the wake of Covid, Justice Kaul said once you are in a position of responsibility – Oza is the president of Gujarat High Court Bar Association – he needs to be more careful with what he says. Further hearing was posted on August 24.

Naphde said that Oza did not have any personal or vested interest and was moved by the plight of the people. Assuring the court that he will never repeat the mistake he made, Oza, who too was present at the hearing through video conferencing, tendered an unconditional and unqualified apology. He offered to go back to the High Court and once again tender an unconditional apology.

As Oza told the court that he was the youngest lawyer who was designated as a senior advocate at the age of 38 years and was offered judgeship at the age of 42, Justice Kaul in a lighter vein said, “You did not make a mistake that I made.”

The hearing saw senior counsel Dushyant Dave, also appearing for Oza, urge Justice Kaul to impress upon Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde to resume open court hearing, without which many lawyers were facing huge difficulties, including financial. Telling the court that we must accept the reality that Covid is here to stay, Dave said the High Courts too were not holding open court hearings citing the example of the Supreme Court.

Assuring the court that the Supreme Court Bar Association he heads and the Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association would extend their total co-operation in the conduct of open court hearing, Dave referred to Maharashtra police, which after its 4600 personnel tested Covid positive, were still working and New Delhi Municipal Council after its 106 officers tested Covid positive is also functioning. He wondered what would happen if they too stopped working.

Datar drew the attention of the bench to the plight of lawyers in subordinate courts in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Justice Kaul too joined them saying that in the absence of law clerks and the personal staff, they (judges) too were facing a daunting task, thereby conveying that nobody was in a happy situation.

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