A bench of Justices Balbir Singh Chauhan, J Chelameswar, and MY Eqbal, passing a six-page judgment on 28 January in a simple cheque bounce special leave petition (SLP), came down heavily on an advocate-on-record who did not turn up for a hearing and instead sent a nameless lawyer holding himself out as “proxy counsel”.
The judgment stated that the petitioner’s AOR, Manu Shanker Mishra, “had not courtesy to send, at least, a slip mentioning the name of the counsel who has to appear”, meaning that a self-styled “proxy counsel” argued before the bench.
That “proxy counsel”, according to the judges, exposed his client to liability for perjury, after asking for the withdrawal of an earlier pleading by the petitioner that was sworn under oath, claiming that it was irrelevant.
The judges focused their anger on the AOR for not having formally nominated a counsel to appear and for not turning up at the hearing, citing the 2014 judgment inRe: Rameshwar Prasad Goyal, where the apex court held that AORs who do not appear in court may be held in criminal contempt.
Chauhan and the bench wrote that “very few [AORs] have spoiled the working system of the institution of [AORs] who simply lend their signatures for petty amount. The AOR involved herein is living in a fool’s paradise if he thinks that he can play hide and seek with any court of law”.
Excerpts from [Judgment]:
3. In the instant case the counsel appearing in the court for the petitioner designated himself merely has a proxy counsel. The Advocate-on-record (for short ‘AOR’) had no courtesy to send, at least, a slip mentioning the name of the counsel who has to appear in the court. Thus, in such a fact-situation, we had no advantage even to know the name of the counsel who was appearing in the court.
5. In such a fact-situation, words fail us to condemn the audacity of the petitioner to tell the highest court of the land to ignore the pleadings taken by him.
Be that as it may, this Court had insisted at the time of first round of hearing of this case that AOR, Shri Manu Shanker Mishra should remain present in the Court at the time of arguments and also passed over the matter for his appearance. In the second round, it was informed to us that the AOR refused to come to the court. We take a very serious note of the conduct of this AOR, particularly, in view of the judgment of this Court In Re: Rameshwar Prasad Goyal,(2014) 1 SCC 572, wherein this Court has categorically held that in case the AOR does not appear in the court, his conduct may tantamount to criminal contempt of the court. In fact, a very few AsOR have spoiled the working system of the institution of AsOR who simply lend their signatures for petty amount. The AOR involved herein is living in a fool’s paradise if he thinks that he can play hide and seek with any court of law.
In such a chaotic situation, any “Arzi”, “Farzi”, half-baked lawyer under the label of “proxy counsel”, a phrase not traceable under the Advocates Act, 1961 or under the Supreme Court Rules, 1966 etc., cannot be allowed to abuse and misuse the process of the court under a false impression that he has a right to waste public time without any authority to appear in the court, either from the litigant or from the AOR, as in the instant case. The AOR, with impunity was disdainful towards the order of this Court directing him to appear in the court. He had also not filed any appearance for the counsel who had appeared, nor the said counsel disclosed his name. The Court takes serious note of the conduct of the AOR, Shri Manu Shanker Mishra and warns him to behave in an appropriate manner befitting the conduct of an advocate and an AOR otherwise this Court will not hesitate to take action against him. His conduct will be under close watch of this Court.
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