Lalit Mohan Das Vs. Advocate-General,
Orissa  INSC 80 (29 November 1956)
DAS, SUDHI RANJAN (CJ) BHAGWATI, NATWARLAL H.
AIYYAR, T.L. VENKATARAMA SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR
CITATION: 1957 AIR 250 1957 SCR 167
Legal Practitioner-Report--Procedure-Not open
to District judge to send back report to the Subordinate civil judge- Report
once made Proceedings can terminate by- Final Order of the High Court
only--Member of the Bar-Officer of the Court-Duty to client and Court-Dignity
and decorum of the Court must be upheld-Conduct-Not a matter between individual
member of Bar and a member of Judicial Service-Disciplinary
action-Punishment-Mitigating circumstances-Interference by Supreme Court-Legal
Practitioners Act (XVIII of 1879), s. 14.
The appellant pleader who already had
strained relation with the Munsif made certain objectionable remarks in open
Court, suggesting partiality and unfairness on the part of the Munsif.
The Munsif drew up a proceeding under ss. 13,
14 Of the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, against the pleader and submitted a
report to the High Court through the District judge.
An application to the Additional District
judge was filed by the pleader, for time to move the High Court to get an order
to have the matter heard by some judicial Officer other than the 168 Munsif who
had made the report. One month's time was accordingly granted, and for some
reason which is not very apparent, the Additional District judge sent the
record back to the Munsif. The Additional District judge made an effort to
settle the trouble. It was arranged that the pleader should apologise and a
resolution should be passed by the members of the local Bar Association.
Accordingly, the pleader appeared in the Court of the Munsif and filed a
written apology and expressed his regret, and the Munsif dropped the
proceeding. It was later found that the resolution was not passed in the terms
suggested by the Additional District judge, and the terms of settlement
suggested by the latter were not fully carried out.
Accordingly, the proceeding was re-opened and
the report was re-submitted to the District judge who with his opinion
forwarded the same to the High Court. The High Court suspended the pleader for
It was contended on behalf of the appellant
that there was no valid reason for reviving the proceeding, after it had once
been dropped on the submission of an apology and expression of regret.
Held, that the report under s. 14 of the Legal
Practitioners Act is a report which is submitted to the High Court. When a report
is made to the High Court by any Civil judge subordinate to the District judge,
the report shall be made through the District judge and the report must be
accompanied by the opinion of such judge. Once the report has been made, it is
not open to the District judge to send back the record to the Subordinate Civil
judge, and no order passed by the Subordinate Civil judge can have the effect
of terminating or bringing to an end the proceeding. The High Court alone is
competent to pass final orders on the report.
A member of the Bar is an officer of the
Court, and though he owes a duty to his client and must place before the Court
all that can fairly and reasonably be submitted on behalf of his client, he
also owes a duty to the Court and must uphold the dignity and decorum of the
Court in which he is appearing. Making amputations of partiality and unfairness
against the subordinate Civil judge in open Court is scandalizing the Court in
such a way as to pollute the very fount of justice ; such conduct is not a
matter between an individual member of the Bar and a member of the judicial
With regard to disciplinary action against a
member of the Bar, the Supreme Court would be reluctant to interfere with the
order of the High Court unless there are clear mitigating circumstances.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 176 of 1956 and Petition No. 165 of 1955.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated March 15/23,1955 of the Orissa High Court, in Civil Reference No, 4
of 1954, 169 N. C. Chatterji, D. -N. Mukherjee and R. Patinaik, for the
Porus A. Mehta and R. H. Dhebar, for
respondent No. 1.
1956. November 29. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by S.K. DAS J.-The appellant is Shri Lalit Mohan Das, a pleader
of about 25 years' standing. who ordinarily practiced in the Courts at
Anandapur in the district of Mayur bhanj in Orissa. The Munsif of Anandapur,
one Shri L. B. N. S. Deo' drew up a proceeding under ss. 13 and 14 of the Legal
Practitioners Act, 1879, against the pleader for grossly improper conduct in
the discharge of his professional duty and submitted a report to the High Court
through the District Judge of Mayurbhanj on December 12, 1953. The District
Judge forwarded the report, accompanied by his opinion, to the High Court of
Orissa on March 9, 1954. The recommendation of the Munsif was that the pleader
should be suspended from practice for one year. The reference was heard by the
High Court of Orissa' and by its order dated March 15, 1955, the High Court
came to the conclusion that the pleader was guilty of grave professional
misconduct and suspended him from practice for a period of five years with. effect
from March 15,1955, Shri Lalit Mohan Das then obtained special leave from this
Court to appeal against the judgment and order of the Orissa High Court dated
March 15 /23, 1955. He also filed a petition under Art of the Constitution.
Learned counsel for the petitioner has not pressed the petition under Art.
32 and nothing more need be said about it. We
proceed now to deal with the appeal which has been brought to this Court on
The charges against the appellant were the
following On July 15, 1953, the appellant was appearing on behalf of the
defendant in Suit No. 81 of 1952 pending before the Munsif of Anandapur. On
that date, there were two other suits pending before the same Munsif. There
were petitions for time in all the three suits.
22 170 The Munsif wanted to take up the
oldest suit for hearing, and the oldest suit being Suit No. 54 of 1952, it was
taken up first and five witnesses for the plaintiff were examined.
Suit No. 81 of 1952 was postponed to August
18, 1953. The appellant, who appeared for the defendant in that suit, was
informed of the postponement. When so informed, the appellant made a-remark in
open Court and within the hearing of the Munsif to this effect: " If the
Peshkar is gained over, he can do everything." He then left the Court. The
Munsif was surprised at the remark made and asked the appellant to explain his
conduct, by means of a letter sent the same day. As the appellant sent no
reply, the Munsif wrote again to the appellant on July 18, 1953. To this letter
the appellant sent the following reply:
"Dear Sir, I am painfully constrained to
receive memo after memo for some imaginary act of mine not in any way connected
with my affairs for which if any explanation is at all warranted officiallv.
For your second memo I felt it desirable as a
gentleman to reply.
Further I may request you to be more polite
while addressing letters to lawyers.
Yours faithfully, Sd. L. M. Das.
Pleader." It is obvious that the letter of the appellant was couched in
very improper terms and considerably strained the relation between the Munsif
and the appellant. The appellant, it may be stated here, was at that time the
President of the Anandapur Sub Divisional Bar Association which consisted of about
14 legal practitioners. On July 21, 1953, Shri B. Raghava Rao, who was the
predecessor in office of Shri Deo, came to Anandapur. He was the guest of Shri
A. V. Ranga Rao, the Sub- Divisional Officer. One Shri N. C. Mohanty, a pleader
of. Anandapur and who was related to the appellant, -came -to invite the two
Munsifs to a luncheon on the occasion of a housewarming ceremony. On hearing
about the trouble between Shri Deo 171 and the appellant, Shri B. Raghava Rao
interceded and it appears that the appellant was persuaded to come to the house
of the Sub-Divisional officer and to ,say that he was sorry for what had
happened in court on July 15, 1953, and that- he did not happean to insult Shri
Deo; Shri Deo, it appears, accepted the apology and for the time being. the
trouble between the two was smoothed over.
A second incident, however, took place on
September 25, 1953. The appellant was appearing for a defendant in another suit
before the Munsif It was Suit No. 101 of 1952.
This suit was fixed for hearing on September
21, 1953. As that date was a holiday, the suit was taken up 'on September 22,
1953. Another suit, Suit No. 86 of 1952, was also fixed for hearing on that
date but Shri N. C. Mohanty, pleader for the defendants in that suit, took time
on the ground of the illness of one -of the defendants, which ground was
supported by a medical certificate. In Suit No. 101 of 1952 also, the
defendants applied for time. on the ground of illness of their witnesses; but
there being no medical certificate in support of the allegation of illness and
no witnesses having been summoned in that suit, the learned Munsif refused to
grant time, and one Shri P. N. Patnaik who also represented the defendants
agreed to go on with the suit. The suit was then heard for two days, i. e., on
September 22 and 23, 1953, and at the request of the defendants' lawyers the
hearing of arguments was postponed to September 25, 1953. On that date the
appellant came to Court accompanied by his junior Shri P. N. Patnaik, for the
purpose of arguing the case on behalf of the defendants. At the very outset of
his arguments the appellant made the follwing remarks:The Court is unfair to
me, while the Court was fair to Mr. Misra (meaning Shri Bhagabat Prasad Misra
who was appearing for the plaintiffs in that suit). The Court is accommodating
and granting adjournments to Mr.
Misra while it was not accommodating
me.". The Munsif took objection to these remarks but nothing untoward
The appellant concluded his arguments.
172 A third incident brought matters to a
climax, and this incident took place on September 29, 1953. The appellant was
appearing for the defendants in Suit No. 6 of 1951. In that suit a preliminary
point of jurisdiction and sufficiency of court fees was raised and Shri B. Raghava
Rao, the predecessor in office of Shri Deo, had dealt with the point and
decided it against the appellant's client. A Civil Revision taken to the High
Court was also rejected.
'The appellant, however, again pressed the
same preliminary point and on September. 29, 1953, Shri Deo passed an order
dismissing the preliminary objection. When this order was shown to the
appellant, he stood up and shouted at the top of his voice-I'I on behalf of the
Bar Association, Anandapur, challenge the order of the Court,. The Court has no
principle as it is passing one kind of order in one suit and another kind of
order in another suit." The Munsif, it appears, was disgusted at the
conduct of the appellant and he stood up and, left the Court room, directing
the bench clerk to send a telegram to the District Judge., A telegram was
accordingly sent to the District Judge asking him to come to Anandapur. The
District Judge asked for a detailed report which was sent on October 1, 1953.
On October 5, 1953, the Munsif drew up a proceeding against the appellant on a
charge under s. 13 of the Legal Practitioners Act referring therein to the
three incidents mentioned above.
The appellant was asked to show cause by
October 26, 1953.
On November 3, 1953, the appellant denied the
allegations made and took up the attitude that the Munsif was not competent to
hold the enquiry on the ground that the Munsif was in the position of a
complainant. The appellant gave a different version of what happened on the
three dates in question. With regard to the incident of July 15, 1953, the
appellant's plea was that some other client had come to him.
in connection with a criminal case pending in
another Court and to that client the appellant had said that an enquiry should
be made from the Peshkar as to the date fixed. With regard to the incident, on
September 25, 1953, the plea of the appellant was^ total denial, and with
regard to the last incident, the appellant said 173 that the Munsif behaved
rudely- and wanted to' assault the appellant, for which the appellant appears,
to have filed a petition to the Governor of Orissa on September 30, 1953, for
according sanction for the prosecution of the Munsif.
It may be stated here that on October 8,
1953, a resolution was passed, numbered Resolution 6, which purported to be a
resolution on behalf of the Bar Association, Anandapur. The resolution was in
"Resolved that on September 29, 1953,
the Court's (Munsif) action on the. dais in rising from the chair, thumping on
the table, shouting at the top of his voice, and using the words 'shut up'
against one honourable member (President) of this Bar Association is quite
unprecedented., undesirable and affecting the prestige of the Bar and may cause
apprehension in the mind of the litigant public to get fair justice." It
may be stated that some other members of the Bar dissociated themselves from
the a id resolution at a later date. The proceeding against the appellant under
the Legal Practitioners Act stated, as we have said earlier, on October 5,
1953, and the appellant filed his written statement on November 3, 1953. On
November 5, 1953, the Munsif sent the record to the District Judge in
connection with the plea of the appellant that the enquiry should be made by
some other judicial officer. The District Judge, however, took the view that under
the provisions of ss. 13 and 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act the enquiry
should be made by the Munsif himself and the records were accordingly sent back
to the Munsif. Thereafter, the appellant non-co- operated and did not appear at
the enquiry though more than one communication was sent to ham The enquiry was
concluded on December 11, 1953, and the Munsif submitted his report.
to,. the High Court through the District
Judge on December 12, 1953. On December 22, 1953, the appellant filed an
application to the Additional District Judge for time to move the High Court to
get an order to have the matter heard by some other judicial officer. One
month's time was 174 accordingly granted and the Additional District Judge, for
some reason which is not very apparent, sent the record back to the learned
Munsif In the meantime, the Additional District Judge, it appears, made an
effort to settle the trouble. On December 23, 1953, he met the members of the
Bar Association and the Munsif at the inspection bungalow at Anandapur on his
way to Mayurbhanj. At a -meeting held there, a copy of a draft resolution to be
passed by the members of the Bar Association, Anandapur, was made over.
This draft resolution was in these terms:
"This Association re rets very much that
an incident relating to the bench clerk of the Civil Court. should have led to
the subsequent unhappy differences between the Bench and the members of the
Bar. As in the interest of the litigant public it is felt not desirable to
allow these strained feelings to continue further, this Association unanimously
resolves to withdraw Resolution No. 6 dated October 8, 1953, passed against the
Court and communicate copies of the same to the addressees previously
communicated. It is further resolved to request the Court to see to the
desirability of withdrawing the proceedings that had been started against the
various members of the Bar and their registered clerks on their expressing
regret to the Court individually in connection with those proceedings.
It is further resolved that the members of
the Bar involved in the proceedings be requested to take immediate steps in
this direction. The Association hopes that the bench clerk who has -to some extent
been the cause for this friction between the Bench and the Bar would be
replaced by a person from a different place at an earlier date." On
January 8, 1954, the appellant appeared in the Court of the Munsif and filed a
written apology and expressed his regret. His signature wag taken on the
order-sheet and the order of that date reads:
"Sri L. M. Das, pleader, appears and
expresses his regret.
So the proceeding No. 2 of 1952 is dropped.
Intimate Additional District Judge." No resolution, however, was passed in
the terms 175 suggested by the Additional District Judge. On January 19, 1954,
two resolution,% were passed in the following terms:
"No. 1. In - view of the fact that past
misunderstandings between the Munsif and members of the Bar caused by an incident
relating to the bench clerk of the Civil Court, have been removed by amicable
settlement of differences existing between both parties, it is unanimously
resolved that resolution No. 6 dated October 8, 1953, stands withdrawn.
No. 2. It is further resolved that the copies
of the above resolution be sent to the addressees previously communicated of
resolution No. 6 of October 8, 1953." The learned Munsif, it appears,
wanted to see the minute book of the Bar Association, presumably to find out in
what terms the proposed resolution was passed. There was again trouble between
the Munsif and the appellant over the production of the -minute book.
Ultimately, the minute book was produced, and on February 2,1954, the Munsif
expressed the view that the resolution passed did not fully carry out the terms
of settlement suggested by the Additional District Judge. Accordingly, the
proceeding was re-opened and the record was re-submitted to the District fudge.
The District Judge thereupon sent the report of the Munsif to the High Court
accompanied by his opinion. The High Court dealt with the report with the
result which we have already indicated.
The main contention of Mr. N. C. Chatterji,
who has appeared on behalf of the appellant is this. He has submitted that
there was no valid reason for reviving the proceeding against the appellant,
after the proceeding had been dropped on January 8, 1954, on the submission of
an apology and expression of regret by his client; because, in substance and
effect, the terms of the settlement suggested by the Additional District Judge
had been complied with. According to Mr. Chatterji an expression of regret
having been made earlier than the passing of the resolutions on January 19,
1954, by the Anandapur Bar Association and the bench clerk having already been
transferred from 176 Anandapur, the resolutions could not be in the same terms
as were suggested by the Additional District Judge; but the two resolutions
passed on January 19, 1954 coupled with the expression of individual regret
made on January 8, 1954, complied in substance with the essential terms of the
draft resolution which the Additional District Judge had made over on December
23, 1953. Mr. Chatterji has contended that this view of the matter has not been
properly considered by the High Court. He has submitted that in view of the
order passed by the learned Munsif himself on January 8, 1954, the proceeding
against the appellant should be treated as having been dropped and concluded on
Mr. Chatterji has also drawn our attention to
ground No. VI in the petition for special leave dated May 9, 1955, in which the
appellant said that he was " willing and prepared to submit before this
Court expressions of unreserved regret and apology for his error of judament
and indiscretion, if any, in the discharge of his professional duties." We
cannot accept the contention of Mr. Chatterji that the order passed by the
learned Munsif on January 8, 1954, had the effect of terminating and bringing
to an end the proceeding against - the appellant. The learned Judges of the
High Court rightly pointed out that the report of the Munsif dated December 12,
1953, was a report which was submitted to the High Court. Under the provisions
of s. 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act, such a report had to be forwarded to
the High Court by the District Judge accompanied by his opinion. It was not
open to. the Additional District Judge to send back the record to the Munsif
The efforts of the Additional District Judge were, indeed, well-intentioned;
but at that stage, after the Munsif had made his report to the High Court, the
High Court alone Was competent to pass final orders in the matter.
Apart, however, from that difficulty, we are
not satisfied that the terms of settlement suggested by the Additional District
Judge were fully complied with in this case. It is true, that the appellant did
express his 177 regret and to that extent the settlement suggested by the
Additional District Judge was carried out. It is also true that by the
resolutions passed on January 19, 1954, the earlier resolution of October 8,
1953, was cancelled, but one essential and important part of the terms of
settlement suggested by the Additional District Judge was that the Association
should express regret at what had happened.
Resolution No. I dated January 19, 1954, was
so worded as to give the impression that the misunderstanding between the
Munsif and the appellant was all due to the bench clerk and that
misunderstanding having been removed Resolution No. 6 dated October,$, 1953,
should be withdrawn. There is nothing in the resolution to show that the
appellant was in any way at fault, a fault which he had expiated I by an
expression of regret. It may be pointed out that the earlier ,resolution,
Resolution No. 6 dated October 8, 1953, had been communicated to a large number
of persons and authorities and the later resolution dated January 19, 1,954,
passed in the diluted form in which it was passed, could hardly undo the damage
which had been made by the earlier resolution.
On merits we agree with the High Court that
the appellant was undoubtedly guilty of grave professional, misconduct. A
member of the Bar undoubtedly owes a duty, to his client and must place before
the Court all that can fairly and reasonably be submitted on behalf of his
client. He may -even submit that a particular order is not correct land may ask
for a review of that order. At the same time, a member of the 'Bar is an
officer of the Court and owes a duty to the Court in which- he is appearing. He
-must phold the dignity and decorum of the Court and must not do anything to.
bring the Court itself into disrepute. The appellant before us grossly'
overstepped the limits of proprieety when he made imputation$; of partiality
and unfairiness against the Munsif in open Court. In suggesting that the Munsif
followed no principle -in his orders the appellant was adding insult to-
injury, because the 'Munsif -had merely up held an order of his predecessor on
the preliminary point of jurisdiction and Court fees, 23 178 which order had
been upheld by the High Court in s revision.
Scandalising the Court in such manner is
really polluting the very fount of justice; such conduct as the appellant indulged
in was not a matter between an individual member of the Bar and a member of the
judicial service; it brought into disrepute the whole administration of
justice. From -that point of view, the conduct-of the appellant was highly
reprehensible. The appellant gave no evidence in support of his version of the
incidents, though he had an opportunity of doingso, if he so desired.
The only point left for consideration, is the
question of punishment. On a matter of this nature, this Court would be
reluctant to interfere with the order of the High Court as respects the
disciplinary action to be taken against a member of the Bar who has been guilty
of professional misconduct. There are, however, two mitigating circumstances.
One is that the learned Munsif himself recommended suspension of practice for
one year only. The appellant was suspended from practice with affect, from
March 15,1955. The order of suspension has now lasted for a little more than a
year and eight months. The second mitigating circumstance is that the appellant
did file la written apology and expressed regret to the learned Munsif
onJanuary 8, 1954. It is unfortunate that the appellantdid not take up a more
contrite attitude in the High Court. In this Court, the appellant tried to make
out that the proceeding against him should not have been revived; he however
showed his willingness to offer an apology and ex pression of regret Having
regard to all the circumstances, we think that the punishment imposed errs -on
the side of excess. We -would accordingly reduece the period of susppusion to,
two years only.
In the result, the petition, under Art. 32 is
dismissed and the appeal is also dismissed subject to the reduction of the
period of suspension as indicated above. In the circumstances of this case,
there will be, no 'order for costs.