The case discusses the urgent necessity for revision or modification of a
number of Advocates Act, 1961 clauses. In this instance, the section of the
Advocates Act, 1961 dealing with disqualification, Section 24A, was the main
source of worry. According to the law, a person who has been found guilty of an
offence involving moral turpitude, is found guilty under the terms of the
Untouchability (Offences) Act of 1955, or has been dismissed or removed due to
moral turpitude is not eligible to be enrolled as an advocate on the state roll.
However, the proviso to it seems to negate the very purpose of the section
because it says that anyone (even those who have committed the most terrible
crimes) is eligible to enroll after serving their sentence for two years. The
same holds true for post-enrollment circumstances. The Hon'ble Allahabad High
Court judged the defendant in this case guilty of criminal contempt and
sentenced him to a fine and incarceration.
The High Court also ordered the Allahabad High Court Bar Council to investigate
the Senior Division Civil Judge Etah's complaint, which is the basis for the
current defendant's case, in order to take the proper legal action for
professional misconduct. In light of the Bar Council's continued inaction even
ten years after the order was passed, the Hon. Apex Court ruled that when the
Bar Council fails to carry out its duties, the High Court may exercise its suo
moto powers under Article 226.
Primary Details Of The Case
Case No.: Criminal Appeal No. 63 of 2006
Jurisdiction: Supreme Court of India
Case Decided On: July 5, 2016
Judges: Justice Anil R. Dave, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel
Legal Provisions Involved:
Constitution of India, Article 226; Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, Section 2(c),
12, 15(2), 19; The Advocates Act, 1961, Sections 24A, 34 & 38
Brief Facts Of The Case
Issues Involved In The Case
- In the present case, a reference under Section 15(2) of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 was made by Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah through District Judge, Etah regarding two separate incidents in his courtroom by one Mahipal Singh Rana, a practicing Advocate. The incidents related to the usage of foul/indecent language and inappropriate comments/behavior in the courtroom.
- The matter was placed before the Administrative Judge who forwarded the matter to the Registrar General. Subsequently, the matter was placed before the Hon'ble Chief Justice who referred the matter to the appropriate bench. The Hon'ble Allahabad High Court took into account the then prevalent conditions where advocates tried to persuade and threaten the judges and the prior antecedents of the contemnor.
The court sentenced the appellant to simple imprisonment of two months and a fine of Rs. 2,000/- and to go for further imprisonment of two weeks in case of failure of payment of the fine. Further, the Hon'ble High Court had directed the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to consider the complaint of Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah to initiate proceedings for professional misconduct and direct the contemnor not to enter the judgeship at Etah until he purges the contempt.
- The contemnor preferred an appeal against the judgment of Hon'ble Allahabad High Court whereby the appellant was found guilty of threatening the Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah.
Arguments Of The Parties
- Whether a case is made out to interfere with the order passed by Hon'ble
Allahabad High Court whereby the appellant has been convicted in the said
- Whether the appellant can be allowed to practice pursuant to the
conviction in Criminal Contempt?
- The main argument was that the entire case against the appellant was false and frivolous as the appellant had not even visited the courtroom on the said dates where the alleged instances took place. The High Court had failed to look into the fact that whether the alleged contemnor had visited the courtroom of the said judge on dates of instances i.e. April 16, 2003 and May 13, 2003.
- The contempt proceedings were filed with ulterior motives as the appellant had previously filed several complaints against the very same Judge who is the complainant in the instant case.
- The matter is barred by limitation for the reason that the instances as alleged took place on April 16, 2003 and May 13, 2003, whereas the notice was ordered to be issued on April 28, 2004.
- That the appellant has turned out to be of 84 years of age and as such, considering the old age, the imprisonment awarded in the contempt case be set aside and fine may be increased.
Legal Aspects Involved In The Case
- State of Uttar Pradesh
- It was argued that the order under challenge was just, legal and proper and the order convicting the appellant were given considering the facts. The manner in which the appellant behaved before the court on the alleged date was contemptuous and he has rightly been convicted.
- Reliance was placed on the report of Learned District Judge and it was argued that the acts of the appellant are unpardonable and hence, he has been correctly convicted for contempt.
- Bar Council of India
- It was argued that Section 24A of Advocates Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') provided a bar on advocate guilty of offence involving moral turpitude however, it does not provide for removing of a person on the roll. It was further argued that in such cases Section 35 of the Act comes into light under which and Advocates can be punished for 'professional misconduct'.
- In the case of advocates, even a minor offence can be considered as an offence of moral turpitude for the reason being that an advocate is considered to know the legal position and conduct should be as high as the profession.
- It was argued that a direction be issued to all Courts that whenever an advocate is convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude, concerned State Bar Council or Bar Council of India be immediately informed after pronouncing of the judgment of conviction for taking necessary actions provided under the Act.
- Union of India
- It was argued that in any profession, the apex body of professionals takes action against the erring members i.e. the Bar Council of India in the present case.
- It was argued that Advocates do not have any absolute right to appear before the Court. Reliance was placed on Article 145 of Constitution of India i.e. Power of the Supreme Court to make rules for regulating practice and procedure and Section 34 of the Act, i.e. Power of High Court to make rules for conditions subject to which advocates be made to practice.
Many crucial aspects regarding the check on the legal profession and punishment
in cases of contempt and professional misconduct were involved in this case.
Request was made to the Law Commission of India for going through the case and
take mandatory steps for the regulation of legal profession at the earliest.
The court opined on the jurisdiction of court vis-a-vis statutory powers of Bar
Councils in light of the judgment in SCBA v. UOI
wherein it was held concerned Bar Council must take action against erring
Advocates under provisions of the Act and courts cannot take over take over the
exercise of disciplinary committee of Bar Council in the exercise of competent
jurisdiction. However, in cases of concerned Bar Council failing in the said
duty, the Supreme Court can exercise jurisdiction under Section 38 of the Act.
In view of the instant case, it was held that High Courts can also exercise the
power under Article 226 of Constitution of India to take action in case of
failure of Bar Council to do so. The case highlighted the need for amendment in
Section 24A of the Act. The proviso to Section 24A i.e. Disqualification from
Enrolment reads as follows: "Provided that the disqualification for enrolment as
aforesaid shall cease to have effect after a period of two years has elapsed
since his [release or dismissal or, as the case may be, removal."
So, even if a person is involved in the gravest offence, a person can be
enrolled as an advocate after two years of expiry of his/ her sentence. Further,
the legal proposition w.r.t undesirability of convicted persons in discharging
public function was discussed in the light of various judgments of Hon'ble
Judgment In Brief
The Court held that the Hon'ble Allahabad High Court had committed no error
while convicting the accused and further held that the accused had appeared
before the court. The court looked into the aspect of complaints of the present
appellant against the said judge and opined that it is not a valid defense and
the act of the accused and the language used were contemptuous. It was held that
the contention of the appellant regarding limitation had no merit as it is upon
the concerned judge to take requisite action as per the law which s/he finds
The appellant was held liable for contempt and it was further held that the
incidents as alleged regarding malafides of the complainant judge were made with
a motive to protect him from contempt proceedings and no apology was ever
The court set aside the imprisonment keeping in view the old age of appellant
however; it held that Hon'ble Allahabad High Court was correct in convicting the
appellant under Criminal Contempt. The court discussed the settled principle of
law regarding merit imprisonment i.e. culpability of offender and likelihood of
interference with administration of justice.
The enrollment of the appellant in State Bar Roll was suspended for two years
from the date of order in light of Section 24A of the Act. Also, in light of
jurisdiction under Section 38 of the Act, the court directed the license of the
petition to remain suspended for another five years and further, the appellant
was debarred from appearing before the court even after the said period, unless
he purges out of contempt.
It was held that in case of failure of Bar Council to take appropriate actions
in case of misconduct, the Supreme Court can take actions Under Section 38 of
the Act whereas, the same power can be availed by High Court under Article 226.
Hon'ble Court expressed the need of review/amendment in regulatory provisions of
the Act and requested the law commission to do the needful in this regard at the
In the present case, the Supreme Court highlighted urgent need of review of
regulatory mechanism in legal profession. The importance of legal profession and
the significant role played by it in the justice delivery system cannot be
neglected. The Court took into account the malpractices followed by advocates
and also discussed about the undesirability of convicted person in this
profession as the legal profession is considered as noble professions and the
practitioners are expected to act accordingly.
Pursuant to the judgment in instant case, comments were invited from
shareholders and even the Advisory Committee appointed by BCI had made
comprehensive recommendations. Law Commission of India vide its 266th Report on
The Advocates Act, 1961 (Regulation of Legal Profession) submitted a draft
Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017 however, no further action in this regard has
been taken which may further lead to more such instances and still such persons
cannot be completely prohibited from practicing this noble profession.