The Leaflet

| @theleaflet_in | March 27,2019

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices Rohinton Nariman and Vineet Saran today barred advocate Mathews Nedumpara from practicing in the Supreme Court for a year for committing contempt of court. The court has also sentenced him to three months imprisonment.

The sentence will, however, remain suspended as long as Nedumpara abides by the undertaking he gave to the court that he would not “browbeat” the judges of the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. 

The court has also initiated fresh contempt of court proceedings against Nedumapara and three other lawyers from Bombay for sending a letter to the Chief Justice of India containing contemptuous allegations against the bench led by Justice Nariman. This case will be heard by another bench after obtaining orders from the CJI.

The court had held Nedumpara guilty of contempt on March 12, 2019. During the course of hearing, Nedumapara also tendered an unconditional apology to the Court.

 

Background of the Case

 

On March 12, 2019, the Supreme Court had found Nedumpara guilty of contempt of the court and observed-

 “In the course of arguments in the present Writ Petition, Shri Mathews Nedumpara, … alleged that judges of the court are wholly unfit to designate persons as Senior Advocates, as they only designate judges’ relatives as Senior Advocates. On being asked whether such a designation should be granted as a matter of bounty, Shri Nedumpara took the name of Shri Fali S. Nariman. When cautioned by the court, he took Shri Fali S. Nariman’s name again. Thereafter, on being questioned by the court as to what the relevance of taking the name of Shri Fali S. Nariman was, he promptly denied having done so. It was only when others present in court confirmed having heard him take the learned Senior Advocate’s name, that he attempted to justify the same, but failed to offer any adequate explanation”, the court noted.

 

Attempt to browbeat, embarrass and insult

 

The only reason Nedumpara named Fali Nariman, according to the court, was to browbeat them and embarrass one of the judges. Fali Nariman’s son is Justice Rohinton Nariman. The court said Nedumpara’s suggestion that lawyers were immune to contempt and that there could be no defamation or contempt proceedings against them because that would impinge on their independence, directly affected the administration of justice and amounted to “contempt in the face of the court”.

 

 

The judges also referred to the past conduct of Nedumpara and observed that he had attempted to browbeat and insult judges on many earlier occasions.  “… the style of this particular advocate is to go on arguing, quoting Latin maxims, and when he finds that the court is not with him, he starts to become abusive,” the judges noted.  

The judges said Nedumpara seemed to mostly appear in what they described as “hopeless cases” and would then proceed to browbeat the court for discretionary orders.  “We have found that the vast majority of appearances by this advocate before us have been in cases in which debtors have persistently defaulted, as a result of which their mortgaged properties have to be handed over to secured creditors to be sold in auction. It is at this stage that Shri Nedumpara is briefed to somehow put off the auction sale. Even the present Writ Petition is a case of a review petition,” the judges noted.

 

Severe punishment

 

Conduct of this kind deserves punishment which is severe, the Supreme Court had asserted. It had also ordered the copy of judgment to be circulated to the Chief Justice of every High Court, the Bar Council of India, and the Bar Council of Kerala, through the Secretary General.

 

 

With regard to the challenge to section 16 of the Advocates Act, 1961 which provides for two classes of advocates, namely Senior and other advocates, the court had held that the petitioner had by way of a writ petition sought a second review of the judgment in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India through Secretary General and Ors., (2017) 9 SCC 766. The judges said it was settled law that an Article 32 writ petition did not lie against a judgment of Supreme Court. “We are also of the view that Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961 is a provision which cannot be said to be unconstitutional and the designation of Senior Advocate cannot be as a matter of bounty or as a matter of right,” the court had held.

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