Vs. Mrs. Suresh Joshi & Ors  INSC 66 (12 March 1999)
V.N. KHARE, J.
appeal under Section 18 of the Advocates Act 1961 (hereinafter referred to as
he Act) at the instance of the appellant who is a practicing Advocate of the
High Court of Delhi as well as an Advocate on Record of this Court is directed
against the order dated 2.3.1998 passed by the Disciplinary Committee of the
Bar Council of India on a complaint filed by the respondent (hereinafter
referred to as complainant) whereby the Bar Council of India after having found
that the appellant has committed professional misconduct, suspended his licence
to practice for a period of five years.
facts that emerge out of the complaint filed by the complainant are these:
time in September 1989, the complainant engaged the appellant for filing a suit
for injunction on the Original Side of the High Court of Delhi. The appellant
filed the suit. The appellant is alleged to have charged Rs.25,102/- towards
payment of court fee and also Rs.389/- for miscellaneous charges total
amounting to Rs.25,491/-, and also a further sum of Rs.6,500/- out of which
Rs.3,500/- was paid through cheque and a sum of Rs.3,000/- in cash.
appellant gave receipt dated 6.10.89 for a sum of Rs.6,500/- as well as receipt
dated 6.10.89 for a sum of Rs.25,102/-. Some time in 1992 the complainant came
to know that the appellant has not deposited the process fee and also did not
press the application for interim injunction filed in the suit. The complainant
on an enquiry found that the appellant has misappropriated a sum of Rs. 25,
102/- and also did not take any steps towards the progress of the case. On
being so told by the complainant the appellant after realising his mistake
issued a cheque dated 31.3.93 for a sum of Rs. 38,000/- on account of refund of
court fee amount along with interest. The said cheque was drawn on UCO Bank and
the same was deposited in the account of the Union, namely, M/s. Siemens Employees Union, New Delhi with the Central Bank of India. The said cheque bounced due to
insufficient funds. Later on when the complainant approached the appellant
informing him that the cheque has bounced the appellant asked the complainant
to deposit the cheque again with an assurance that this time the cheque would
be honoured but again the cheque when it was deposited on 15.5.93 was
dishonored with the remarks insufficient funds. The complainant then sent a
notice dated 9.6.93 which remained unreplied. Under such circumstances the
complainant filed a complaint before the Delhi Bar Council.
the said complaint could not be decided within the stipulated time it stood
transferred to Bar Council of India. Before the Bar Council of India the
complainant examined herself as well as got exhibited various documents,
namely, Ext.C-1 - receipt dated 6.10.89 for a sum of Rs.6,500/-; Ext.C-2 -
another receipt dated 6.10.89 which was in respect of a sum of Rs.25,102/-;
Ext.C-3 - case file of the civil suit filed before the High Court of Delhi;
- cheque issued by the appellant dated 31.3.93 for a sum of Rs.38,000/-; Ext
C-5 & C-6. Memos of Central Bank and UCO Bank respectively with respect to
presentation of cheque and its dishonoring on account of insufficient funds;
and C-8 - memos of Central Bank and UCO Bank with respect to first presentation
of cheque and its dishonoring due to insufficient funds in the account of the
- counter foil of deposit of cheque in the account of Siemens Employees Union;
Ext.C-14 the certificate issued by the S.H.O., Police Station, Tilak Marg, New
Delhi dated 28.7.95 to the effect that no complaint was received from the
appellant regarding theft of cheque book at Police Station, Tilak Marg. Besides
that the original file of the civil suit No.2688/89 was summoned by the Bar
Council. The appellant denied the allegations that he has received a sum of
Rs.25,102/- towards payment of court fee and also denied his signatures on
Ext.C-1, C-2 and C-4 alleging that his signatures were forged by the respondent
herself. The Bar Council after considering the entire material found that the
appellant had received a sum of Rs.25,102/- from the respondent towards payment
of court fee which he never deposited in the Court and Ext.C-4 bears the
signature of the appellant. Consequently, the Bar Council after having arrived
at the conclusion that the appellant has committed professional misconduct,
suspended his licence to practice for a period of 5 years. That is how the
matter has come before us.
R.K. Jain, learned Senior counsel appearing for the appellant advanced two
submissions. The first submission is that the appellant having denied his
signatures on Exts. C-1, C-2 and C-4 it was incumbent upon the Bar Council to
have sought an opinion of a hand-writing expert for finding out the genuineness
of the signatures on those exhibits. He contended that the failure on the part
of the Bar Council to summon a hand-writing expert has resulted in grave
injustice to the appellant. The second submission is that the appellant has
never received a sum of Rs.25,102/- towards payment of court fee and the
finding recorded by the Bar Council contrary to it is totally per verse. Since
both the submissions of learned counsel are over-lapping, we propose to deal
both the submissions together.
we heard the matter and perused the record, we find five established
circumstances against the appellant which are stated hereinafter.
The valuation of the suit given in the plaint originally filed was purposely
kept vague which was subsequently amended without the knowledge of the
suit was filed in 1989. However, the Registry of the High Court returned the
plaint for removing the following defects:
That the prayer clause was not proper;
That exact value for the purposes of court fee and jurisdiction were not
mentioned; and (iii) claim made and the court fee amount paid should also be
26.9.89 the plaint was re-filed and a new para 50 was added. Prayer clause was
also amended. Clarification of the court fee amount was also made and paras 39,
40, 42 and 43 of the plaint were also amended. In paragraphs 39, 40, 42 and 43
of the plaint the words fixed court fee of Rs.20/- is affixed on the plaint
were added. In paragraph 50 which was a new paragraph at page 20 of the plaint,
the value of each prayer has been tentatively fixed at Rs.200/- and the court
fee of Rs.20/- on each prayer has been affixed on the plaint were mentioned.
Pages 20, 21 and 22 of the plaint did not bear the signatures of the
complainant although all other pages of the plaint were signed by the
complainant. Thus it shows that initially no valuation was given in the plaint
but subsequently without any knowledge of the complainant pages 20 to 22 of the
plaint were substituted under the signatures of the appellant. Had the
respondent been informed about the substitution of these 3 pages of the plaint
the same would have contained the signatures of the complainant. When the
plaint was originally filed the figures stated herein were not in the plaint
which facts are borne out from the report of the Registry of the Delhi High
Court. The amount mentioned in paras 39, 40, 42, 43 and addition of para 50
with respect to court fee was done by the appellant as the same were not in
existence when the plaint was filed at the first instance.
aforesaid facts show that the valuation of the suit was purposely kept vague
when the plaint was filed for the first time so that the respondent-complainant
may not able to know as to the actual amount of court fee affixed on the
original plaint was summoned by the Bar Council and after examining it the Bar
Council recorded the following findings :
prima facie look at this makes it clear that in column No.5 stamp paper towards
court-fees column has been left blank and no figure has been mentioned therein.
At S.No.1 against the memo of parties, figure of Rs.140/- has been mentioned
and over vakalatnama Rs.2.75 has been mentioned. It is further apparent that
alignment of the amount of Rs.140/- court fees paid for parties was not typed
at the same time as the alignment of the type clearly shows that particulars
and objects mentioned at the top of the column horizontally same alignment
whereas figure of Rs.140 is slightly below which clearly indicates that this
was put subsequently. Similarly, figure of Rs.2.75 at S.No.3 appears to have
been mentioned subsequently as vakalatnama and figure of 22 appears to have
been typed at the same time and Rs.2.75 is somewhat on lower level whereas, had
all these figures been typed at the same time, they would have been in the same
line and alignment. Thus, it appears that figure of Rs.140/- and Rs.2.75 have
been typed subsequently.
in agreement with the aforesaid finding recorded by the Bar Council and are of
the view that the aforesaid established circumstances clearly show that exact
amount of court fee to be paid on the plaint was purposely kept vague and
subsequently three pages were substituted so that the complainant may not able
to know the exact amount of court fee paid on the plaint.
Dishonoring of the cheque issued by the appellant Ex.C/4 by the bank on account
of insufficient fund in the account of the appellant.
complainant alleged that when the appellant realized that the complainant has
come to know that he has misappropriated a sum of Rs. 25,491/-, he gave a cheque
for a sum of Rs. 38,000/- which is Ext.C-4. The said cheque was drawn on UCO
Bank and the same was deposited in the Central Bank of India in the account of Union, viz.,
Siemens Employees Union, New
Delhi. But the said cheque
was dishonored due to insufficient funds. The appellant denied his signature on
Ext. C-4 and contended that his signature was forged by the complainant. It is
in this context that it was urged before the Bar Council of India that some
hand- writing expert be examined in order to find out the genuineness of the
signature on Ext. C-4. As stated above, the cheque bounced not on account of
the fact that the signature on Ext. C-4 was not tallying with the specimen
signature of the appellant kept with the Bank, but on account of insufficient
funds. Had the signature on Ext.
been different, the bank would have returned the same with the remark that the
signature on Ext. C-4 was not tallying with the appellants specimen signature
kept with the bank. The memos Ext. C-6 and Ext. C-8 issued by the bank clearly
show that signature of the appellant on Ext.
was not objected to by the bank, but the same was returned with the remark
insufficient fund. This circumstance shows that the signature on Ext. C-4 was
that of the appellant.
The complainant was not beneficiary of Ex. C/4.
seen earlier the cheque Ext. C-4, issued by the appellant was in favour of M/s.
Siemens Employees Union, New
Delhi. The account
payee cheque obviously was not issued in the name of the complainant. By the
aforesaid cheque the complainant was not going to gain anything out of it. The
amount normally would have been credited in the account of M/s. Siemens
Employees Union, New
Delhi. Thus, this
circumstance also shows that there was no reason for the complainant to forge
the signature of the appellant on Exts. C-1, C-2 and C-4.
reply to the notices (Exts.C-12 and C-13) dated 9.6.93 and 11.1.93,
complainant sent two notices on behalf of M/s Siemens Union to the appellant
wherein she inter alia alleged, that a sum of Rs. 25,102/- was misappropriated
by the appellant under the pretext of payment of the court fee for the suit
filed by the plaintiffs, that the appellant did not press the application for
injunction, and that the appellant misled the complainant as regards the
progress of the case. These notices were not replied to by the appellant which
is a material circumstance against the appellant when, receipt of the notices
sent to him have been admitted.
FIR lodged with regard to theft of the cheque book.
case set up by the appellant before the Bar Council was that, in fact, the
complainant somehow managed to get his cheque book and she after forging his
signature on one of the leaf presented the same to the bank for payment. If it
was true, why did the appellant not lodge any FIR with the Tilak Marg Police
Station regarding theft of the cheque book. However, it was subsequently
explained by the appellant that he did send a letter to the SHO of the said
Police Station. But, in normal course, FIR is not lodged by letter at the first
instance. Moreover, SHO, Tilak Marg Police Station gave a certificate Ext.
C-14, to the effect that he did not receive any registered letter or report
from the appellant regarding theft of his cheque book.
established circumstances stated above, clearly show that the signature on Exts.
C-1, C-2 and C-4 were that of the appellant himself. Moreover, during the
course of hearing of the case, we ourselves examined and compared the admitted
signature of the appellant with that of Ext. C-4 leaving nothing to chance lest
any injustice is caused to the appellant. On comparison, we found striking
similarity between the admitted signature and that of the disputed one and
there is no reason to doubt the genuineness of the signature on Ext. C-4. The
circumstances established in the present case speak for themselves and candidly
point out towards the misconduct committed by the appellant. When the established
circumstantial evidence is so patent that it leads to only one conclusion that
the signature on Ext. C-4 was not forged; there was no need for an opinion of a
hand writing expert. We are, therefore, satisfied that the established
circumstantial evidence as well as the documentary evidence in the present case
show that the allegations of the complainant were well substantiated and in
such circumstances of the case, the Bar Council of India was justified in
declining to summon a hand-writing expert for finding out the genuineness of
the signature on Ext.
learned senior counsel, while concluding his argument prayed that we may take a
lenient view of the matter in view of the fact that the appellant has deposited
the entire money covered by Ext. C-4. The learned counsel also gave an
undertaking on behalf of the appellant that he would not repeat such a conduct.
legal profession is known as a noble profession having high traditions and has
been catering to the need of the society for a very long time past. Thus the
members of this profession are expected to uphold those traditions and serve
the society with sincerity and honestly. If such are the expectations from a
noble profession, its members must conduct themselves which may be worthy of
emulation. By doing any act which is contrary to the accepted norms and
standards of this profession, a member of the profession not only discredits
himself, but also brings disrepute to the profession to which he belongs. By
such acts the credibility and reputation of the profession as a whole comes
under cloud. If any member of the profession falls from such standards, he
deserves punishment commensurate with the gravity of misconduct. Initially, we
were not inclined to interfere with the order under appeal. However, since the
appellants counsel has given an undertaking on behalf of the appellant to the
effect that the appellant would conform to the standards of the legal
profession and further, he has deposited a sum of Rs. 40,000/- to be paid to
the plaintiffs of the suit, we modify the order of the Disciplinary Committee,
Bar Council of India of suspending the appellants licence to practice for a
period five years by reducing it to two and a half years, provided the
appellant also deposits interest on Rs. 38,000/- w.e.f 31.3.93 till the date of
payment of money to the plaintiffs @ Rs. 9% per annum. The appellant has
already deposited a sum of Rs. 40,000/- in the Court which has been invested in
a fixed deposit of a nationalised bank. The amount over and above Rs. 38,000/-
deposited by the appellant in this Court and an interest accrued on the fixed
deposit shall be adjusted towards interest payable by the appellant. The
balance amount, if any, shall be paid by the appellant within one month from
the date of this judgment. In case the appellant fails to deposit the aforestated
amount within the stipulated period, our order reducing the suspension period
of the appellants licence to practice would stand recalled and all the
consequences provided in the order under appeal shall come into effect. The
appellant shall also deposit the cost as awarded by the Bar Council of India,
as well as the costs of this appeal.
appeal is, therefore, allowed in part. The appellant shall pay cost to the
claimant which we quanitfy at Rs.5,000/-.