Disparaging remarks against the conduct of a person is inconsistent with judicial behaviour: Supreme Court of India

Use of intemperate language or making disparaging remarks against anyone, unless that be the requirement for deciding the case, is inconsistent with judicial behaviors. Written words in judicial orders are for permanent record which make it even more necessary to practice self-restraint in exercise of judicial power while making written orders. This was held by Hon’ble Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Hon’ble Justice Hrishikesh Roy in the case of Neeraj Garg Vs. Sarita Rani and Ors. Etc. [CIVIL APPEAL NOs.4555 ­ 4559 OF 2021] on the 02nd of august, 2021 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court at New Delhi.

The brief facts of the case are, the appellant is a practicing lawyer, before the High Court of Uttarakhand with around 17 years standing as member of the Bar. The present appeal is limited to expunging certain observations made against the appellant by the learned Judge of the High Court while deciding four cases in which the appellant was representing one of the contesting parties. The Office Report in the case reflects that the Counsel for the Appellant has circulated a letter dated 13.07.2021 stating therein that the Petition has been filed only for expunging certain observations recorded against the Appellant by the High Court in the concerned cases and the Appellant is not seeking any relief against any of the arrayed Respondents and as such they be treated as Proforma Respondents. the remarks/observations made by the learned Judge against the Appellant were recorded without putting the counsel to notice or providing any hearing to him, before recording the adverse comments. those recordings are neither essential nor necessary for the Court’s verdict in the concerned cases.

The counsel for the appellant submitted that, the comments in the judicial orders of the High Court against the Counsel’s conduct were not needed for adjudication of the matters under consideration. In any case, the observations could not have been recorded without putting the counsel on notice about the intention of the Court. It is also submitted that by virtue of the remarks recorded against the Appellant, his hard­ earned reputation has been tarnished. It was also submitted that since the presiding judge and the appellant were rival counsels on several occasions, the comments may have emanated from personal prejudice and may not be otherwise warranted. Accordingly, it is argued that the Appellant should not be made to suffer adverse comments on his conduct as a lawyer only because the concerned Judge may not appreciate the efforts made. The court heard the submissions of both the parties and observed that even in cases of justified criticism, the language employed must be of utmost restraint. The use of carping language to disapprove of the conduct of the Counsel would not be an act of sobriety, moderation or restraint. The court also relied on the judgement in the case of A.M. Mathur Vs. Pramod Kumar Gupta (1990) 2 SCC 533, wherein it was held that, “The duty of restraint, this humility of function should be constant theme of our judges. This quality in decision making is as much necessary for judges to command respect as to protect the independence of the judiciary. Judicial restraint in this regard might be better called judicial respect, that is respect by the judiciary…”.

The court allowed the petition by decreeing, “the tenor of the remarks recorded against the appellant will not only demean him amongst his professional colleagues but may also adversely impact his professional career. If the comments remain unexpunged in the court judgments, it will be a cross that the Appellant will have to bear, all his life. To allow him to suffer thus, would in our view be prejudicial and unjust. In view of the forgoing, we are of the considered opinion that the offending remarks recorded by the learned judge against the appellant should not have been recorded in the manner it was done. The appellant whose professional conduct was questioned, was not provided any opportunity to explain his conduct or defend himself. The comments were also unnecessary for the decision of the Court. It is accordingly held that the offending remarks should be recalled to avoid any future harm to the appellant’s reputation or his work as a member of the Bar. We therefore order expunction of the extracted remarks in paragraphs 4,5,6, and 7 of this judgement.”

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