Topic: P.D. Gupta vs Ram Murti

P.D. Gupta vs Ram Murti
Supreme Court of India - Bench: S.C. Agrawal, D.P. Wadhwa - Date of Judgment: 08/07/1997

Hon'ble Mr. Justice S.C. Agrawal Hon'ble Mr. Justice D.P. Wadhwa Yogesh K. Jain, Sr. Adv., Pravir K. Jian, M.A. Khan, B.K. Sharma, and Rajiv Dutta, Addvs. with him for the appellant In-person for the Respondent in No.1 The following Judgment of the court was delivered : D.P. WADHWA, J.

The appellant is an advocate practising    in Delhi. He ha filed this appeal under section 38 of the Advocates Act, 1961 (    in short the Act,) against order dated May 4, 1996 of the    Disciplinary Committee    of Bar    council of India holding him guilty of    misconduct and    suspending him    from practice for a period    of one Year. This order by the Bar council of India was passed as the Disciplinary committed of the    Bar council of Delhi    could not dispose of    the complaint received by it with in a period of one year    and proceedings had thus been transferred to the Bar council of India under section 36 B of the Act. Section 36 B enjoins upon the Disciplinary    committee of state Bar council to dispose of the complaint receive by it under section 35 of the Act expeditiously    and in    any case to conclude the proceedings within one case to conclude the proceedings within one year from    the date of the receipt of    the complaint or the date of initiation of the proceedings if at the instance of the state Bar Council. Under Section 35 of the Act    where on the    receipt of a complaint or otherwise the state bar    council has reason to believe that    any advocate on it s role has been guilty of professional or other misconduct, it shall refer the case for disposal to its Disciplinary Committee.

One Srikishan Dass died on January 5, 1980 leaving behind extensive properties, both movable and immovable. One Vidya wati claiming to be the sister and the only legal heir of Srikishan Dass filed a petition under Section 276 of the Indian Succession Act in the court of District Judge, Delhi for grant of probate/letters of administration to the estate of deceased Srikishan Dass. This she filed    in February, 1980.    It is not that    there was any will. The complainant Ram Murti (who is now respondent before us ) and tow other persons also laid claim to the properties of Srikishan Dass claiming themselves to be his heirs and propounding three different wills. They also filed separate proceeding under section 276 of the Indian succession Act before the District Judge, Delhi. Since there was disoute regarding inheritance to the    properties of srikishan Dass, Vidya Wati also filed a civil    suit in the Delhi High Court    for declaration and injunction against various defendants numbering    23, including the complainant Ram Murti    who is defendant No.

21. This suit was filed on February, 10 1982. Vidya wati had prayed for a decree of injunction against the defendants restraining them from trespassing into property bearing No. 4852 Harbans Singh street, 24 Daryaganj, New Delhi or from interfering with or disturbing peaceful possession    and enjoyment of immovable properties detailed in Schedule-A to the plaint. She also sought a declaration that she was the absolute owner    of the    properties mentioned therein in the schedule. It    is not    necessary for    us to    detail    the properties shown in    schedule-A except to    note two properties at 24 Daryaganj, New Delhi bearing No. 4852 and 4852-A. It is stated that this suit is still pending in the Delhi High court and all the proceedings under section 276 of    the Indian Succession Act filed by various persons relating to the estate    of Srikishan Dass have also    been transferred from the court of District Judge.    Delhi to the High court and are being tried alongwith the suit filed by Vidya wati also filed various other proceedings respecting the properties    left by deceased Srikishan Dass against occupants or otherwise. P.D. Gupta, advocate who is appellant before us had been her counsel throughout in all these proceedings. The complaint alleged against him is that though he knew that there was doubt cast on the right of Vidya Wati inheriting the properties of Srikishan Dass on account of pendency of various proceedings and further that the complainant    and others had alleged that she was in fact an imposter and her claim to be sister of Srikishan Dass was false    yet P.D. Gupta purchase ground floor    of property bearing No. 4858-A 24 Daryaganj from Vidya Wati by sale- deed dated December 30, 1982. The complainant also alleged that Vidya Wati had been describing herself either as the real sister, step sister or    even halfblood sister of Srikishan Dass which fact was well known to P.D. Gupta, her counsel.

It is not for us to go into the merits or demerits of the controversy raised by    the parties    in various proceedings pending in    the courts    and still awaiting adjudication, the grievance of the complainant is as to how an advocate could purchase property from his client which property is the subject matter of dispute between    the parties    in a court of law. During the course of hearing of this appealing    was also brought to our notice that second floor    of the property bearing No. 4858-A, 24 Daryaganj was purchased by Suresh Kumar Gupta son-in-low of the advocate P.D. Gupta Sola the property purchased by him in November, 1987 for a consideration of Rs. 3,40,000/- in December, 1982.    It is    pointed    out that the facts relating    to purchase of different portions of property No. 4858-A, 24 Daryagnaj and subsequent sale    by P.D.    Gupta in buying the property from Vidya Wati in the circumstances aforesaid who had been describing herself some time as half blood sister, real sister or even step-sister of Srikishan Dass.    The explanation given by P.D. Gupta is that though Vidya Wati was step-sister    of srikishan Dass but    the later always treated her like her real sister and that is how vidya Wati also at times described herself as real    sister.

There are    some more facts which    could also be noted. Vidya Wati herself has died and she is stated to be survived by ger only daughter maya Devi who is also now dead. before her death Vidya Wati allegedly    executed a will in favour of her grandson Anand Prakash bansal who is stated to be the son of    maya Devi bequeathing all her properties to    him. Vidya Wati died on October 26, 1991 and Maya Devi on April 13, 1992, It is stated that P.P. Bansal has been acting as General Attorney of vidya Wati and instructing P.D. Gupta.

In support    of his case P.D. Gupta filed affidavit of Anand Prakash Bansal wherein it is claimed that saledeeds executed by Vidya Wati in favour of P.D. Gupta and his son- in low    Suresh    Kumar Gupta were without any pressure from any one    and were by free will of vidya Wati. P.D. Gupta has claimed that complaint filed by Ram Murti is motivated and he    himself had no title to the properties of srikishan Dass being no    relation of his and the will propounded by him had    been found to be forged as opined by the CFSL\CBI laboratory. The    fact that the will propounded by the court. In the    affidavit filed    by P.D. Gupta    in answer to    the complaint of Ram Murti    he has stated that "Lala Srikishan Dass left behind his sister Smt. Vidya Wati who succeeded to the estate on death of Lala Srikishan Dass and took over the entire movable and    immovable estate. Thereafter    the complainant and    two other persons propounded    will of Lala Srikishan Dass". This statement of P.D. Gupta has been verified by him as true and correct to his knowledge. It does appear to us to be rather odd for a lawyer to verify such facts to    his knowledge.    It is claimed that when Srikishan Dass    died, subject immovable property was    plot bearing No.4858-A, 24 Daryaganj measuring 1500 sq. feet and the same was got mutated in the name    of Vidya Wati in the records of the Municipal corporation of Delhi and then she got plan sanctioned from the Municipal corporation    of Delhi for construction    of the house on this plot and which she did construct and got completion certificate on August 28, 1981. It is peculiar, rather astounding, how could Vidya Wati get the property of Srikishan Dass mutated in her name when    she is yet    to be    granted    letters of administration or declaration to her title.

We    examined the    two sale-deeds transferring    this property, one executed in favour of P.D. Gupta and other in favour    of his    son-in-law Suresh Kumar Gupta and we complainant and the concerned parties."

In the sale deed    which    is dated December 30,    1982 executed in favour of    P.D. Gupta recitals show that the agreement to sale was    entered into on September 3, 1980. The completion certificate of the building was obtained on August    28, 1981 Payment of    Rs. 1,50000/-    made before execution of the sale    deed on various dates from 3.8.80 to 20.11.1981 by means of    cheques except    one payment of Rs. 10.000/- made by cash on September 3, 1980. balance amount of consideration of Rs. 30,000/- was    paid at    the time of registration of    the sale deed there is no mention of any civil suit respecting    this property    pending in the High Court.    Rather it is stated that vendor had constructed various floors    and had    assured/represented to    the vendee that she had a good and marketable title to the property and the same was    free form all    sorts    of liens, charges, encumbrances or others    like burdens, and in case any defect in the    title of the vendor was later on proved, the vendor undertook to compensate the vendee for all losses, damages and claims, which might be caused to him in this regard. In the other sale deed dated December 2, 1982    executed in favour of son-in-law of P.D. Guta. Which was filed during course of hearing course of hearing of this appeal, it is mentioned that    after obtaining    completion certificate on August 28,1981    Vidya Wati let out the second floor of the property comprising five rooms, kitchen, two bathrooms on monthly rent of rupees    five hundred to Suraj    Bhan Gupta. Recitals to this deed    show that in order to retch better price Vidya wati agreed to sell the property being second floor    which according    to her was not giving    good return for consideration of Rs. 1,75,000/- to Suresh Kumar Gupta. Now this Suresh Kumar Gupta son-in-law of P.D. Gupta is no other person than the son of Suraj Bhan    Gupta,    the tenant. There is no mention of any agreement to sell in this sale-deed but what we find    is that first payment of Rs. 20,000/- towards consideration was made on November    5, 1981, second payment of Rs. 25,000/- on February 20, 1982 and third of Rs. 30,000/- on    April 26, 1982. Balance Payment has been made at the time of execution of the    sale deed on December 2, 1982.

Bar Council of India has taken note of the following facts:

1. P.D. Gupta    claims to know vidya wati since 1980 when Srikishan Dass was alive. He knew Vidya wati closely and yet contradictory stands were taken by Vidya wati when    she varyingly described herself as half-blood sister,    real sister or step-sister of Srikishan Dass. These contradictory stands in fact cast doubt ion    the very ekistence of Vidya wati herself.    This also created doubt about bona fides of P.D. Gupta who seemed to be a family lawyer of vidya wati.

2. P.D. Gupta    knew    that the property purchased by him from Vidya wati was subject    matter    of litigation    and title of vidya wati to that property was in doubt.

3. Hupe property situated in Daryaganj Ganj was purchased by P.D.    Gupta    for a mere sum of Rs. 1,80,000/- in 1982.

4. The agreement for sale of property was entered into as for back on September 3,1980 and P.D. Gupta had advancing money Vidya Wati from time to time which went to show    that as per version of P.D. Gupta knew Vidya Wati so closely how Vidya Wati could take    contradictory stands vis-a-vis    her relationship with Srikishan Dass.

Bar Council of India was thus of view that conduct of P.D.    Gupta in    circumstance s    was unbecoming of professional ethics and conduct.

Bar Council of India also    observed :

" It is acknowledged fact that a lawyer conducting    the case of his client has    commanding status and can expert influence of his client.

As a member of the Bar it is our common knowledge    that    lawyers have lawyers    have    started contracting with the clients and enter into baroains that in case of    success he will shore the result. Number of instanses of Motor Accident Claims. No doubt there is no bar for instances to purchase property    but on    account of    common prudence specially law knowing person will never prefer to purchase the property, the title of which is under doubt."

Finally it said:

"    But for the    purpose    of the present complaint, having regard to all the facts and circumstances of the case,    the committee is of the opinion that the    conduct    of the respondent is patently unbecoming of    a    lawyer    and    against professional ethics. Consequently, we    feel    that as an exemplary punishment, Shri P.D. Gupta should be    suspended form practice for a period of one year    so that other erring lawyers should learn a    lesson    and refrain themselves form indulging in such practice."

The question which rises for consideration is: In view of the aforementioned facts is    P.D. Gupta guilty of professional or other misconduct and if so is the punishment awarded to him disproportionate to    the professional or    other    misconduct of    which he has    been found guilty?

Mr. Y.K.    Jain, learned    counsel    appearing for    the appellant P.D.    Gupta    submitted that    if in a case like this it    held    that a lawyer    was guilty of professional misconduct particularly    on complaint filed by an interested person like Ram Murti    no lawyer would be able to conduct henceforth the    case of his client fearlessly. Mr. jain said that the aggrieved person. if any, in this case would have been either Vidya    Wati. Her daughter maya Devi or her grand-son Anand Prakash Bansal and neither of them    had complained. it was also submitted    that    though    the property was purchased by P.D. Gupta in late 1982    the complaint by Ram Murti    was filed only on December 16 ,1922 Mr. Jain explained that as to how Vidya Wati had    been varyingly described in various litigations was on account of instruction form her or her Attorney and it was no fault of P.D. Gupta on    that account. Then it was submitted that no specific charges had been framed in the    disciplinary proceedings which had caused prejudice to P.D. Gupta in the conduct of his defence. lastly, it    was contended    that P.D. Gupta was no longer concerned with the property as he had sold away the same.

There appears to be no substance    in the substance of mr. Jain. P.D. Gupta    was fully aware of the allegations he was to meet . It was not a    complicated charge. He has been sufficiently long in practice. The arguments that a charge had not been formulated appears to be more out of the discontentment of    P.D. Gupta in being unable to meet the allegation    . Now,    P.D. Gupta says that he has washed off his    hands of the property and thus    he is not guilty of any misconduct.    That    is not the issue. It is    his conduct in buying the    property, the    subject matter of litigation between the parties, from his client    on which he could exercise undue    influence especially when there was a doubt cast on his client's title to the property. Had P.D. Gupta sold the property back to Vidya Wati and got the sale deed in his    favour cancelled something could have been said in his favour. But that is not so. He sold the property to a third person, made property to a third person,    made profit and created more complications    in the    pending suit.    P.D. Gupta    purchased the properties which were subject matter of dispute for himself and also for his son-in-law at almost throw away prices and thus he himself became a party to the    litigation . conduct of P.D. Gupta cannot be said to be above board. It is not material that Vidya Wati or anyone claiming    through her has not complained against him. We are    concerned with    the professional conduct of    P.D. Gupta    as a lawyer conducting the case for his client. a lawyer owes duty to be fair not only to his client but to the court as well as to the opposite party in the conduct of the case. Administration of Justice is stream which has to be dept    pure    and clean. It    has to    be kept unpolluted. Administration    of Justice is not something which concerns the Bench only. It concerns    the Bar as well, Bar is the principal ground for recruiting Judges. No one should be able to raise a finger about the conduct of a lawyer. While conducting the    case he    functions as officer of the court. Here, P.D. Gupta in buying the property as in effect subverted the process of justice. His action has raised serious questions about his fairness in the conduct of the trial touching    his professional conduct of the trial touching his professional conduct as an advocate. By his action he has brought    the process of administration    of justice in disrepute.

Bar council of India and state Bar councils    are statutory bodies under    the Act. These bodies performs varying functions under the Act and the rules framed their under.    Bar council of India has    laid standards of professional conduct for the members. code of conduct in the circumstances can never be exhaustive. Bar council of India and state Bar councils are representative bodies of the Advocates    on their rolls and are charged    with responsibility    of maintaining    discipline amongst members and punish those who go astray from the path of rectitude set out    for them. In the present case the Bar council of India, through    its disciolinary committee, has considered all the    relevant circumstances and    has come to    the conclusion that P.D.    Gupta,    advocate is    guilty of misconduct and    we see    no reason to take a different view. We also    find    no ground to interfere    with the punishment awarded to P.D. Gupta in the circumstances of the case.

The charge    of professional or other misconduct by an advocate is a serious    matter    and has to be considered and disposed of by the Disciplinary committee of a state Bar council expeditiously and with    in period of one year. We are unable to comprehend as to why the    Disciplinary Committee of the Delhi Bar council could not dispose of the matter    within    the prescribed time frame and it was left the apex body to deal with it.

The appeal is dismissed. No order as to costs.