The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted the ‘unconditional & unqualified apology’ tendered by Rajasthan High Court Bar Association, Jaipur and closed contempt proceedings initiated against them for boycotting a bench of the High Court on September 27 as part of a strike.
A Bench comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice Sanjiv Khanna passed the direction after perusing the affidavits and resolution filed by the office bearers of the Bar Association. On last occasion, November 17th, Supreme Court had rejected the affidavits of apology tendered by the Rajasthan High Court Bar Association at Jaipur for boycotting a court, observing that the aplogy was not unconditional and unqualified.
The Court had also directed the office bearers of the Association to come up with a better affidavit and also to to come out with a Resolution stating that the Bar Association in future shall not repeat the acts of boycotting Single Judge’s court, go on strike, pressurise the Chief Justice of the High Court to change the Roster of a particular Judge or the Bench and pressurise Chief Justice and/or any other Judge(s) in any manner whatsoever.
Today, Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for the Association presented before the bench the fresh affidavits along with the resolution.Separate affidavits have been filed by all office bearers barring one lady member who couldn’t file due to personal difficulty.
The Bench noted that the office bearers while offering an unconditional apology, have condemned manner in which members of the Bar acted and conducted the strike. It also noted that the Association has passed a resolution on November 23 resolving not to resort to court boycotts or strikes in future.
The Bench therefore recorded “In view of the above, unconditional and unqualified apology tendered by office bearers of Bar Association and their statement on affidavit that they shall not go on strike on any ground whatsoever in future or pressurise Chief Justice or any other Judge to change roster of particular judge or Bench and no pressure tactic shall be adopted in future and they will resolve their conflicts by lawful methods, we accept unconditional & unqualified apology tendered & we close the contempt proceedings. Contempt notices are discharged.”
The Bench further observed that in future if it is found that the members and office bearers of Bar Association have acted against their resolution, a very serious view will be taken and the matter will be viewed very seriously.
Although the bench closed the contempt proceedings, it made strong oral remarks against the Association for its decision to hold a strike.
“We did not expect this from Rajasthan High Court(Association).This has not happened for the first time, earlier also this has happened. We’ll pass a detailed order that anything repeated in future will be viewed seriously”, Justice Shah said
“We don’t say members of Bar aren’t right, At times members of Bar may have genuine grievances but this is not method of resorting grievance”, Justice Shah said.
High Court’s Should Have Grievance Redressal Committees Consisting of Judges: SC
The Bench orally observed that it is going to consider the aspect that every High Court should appoint grievance redressal committee consisting of few Judges, so representation regarding any grievance by the members of the Bar could be made to them.
Strike Not A solution, It Only Aggravates the Situation: SC
“This is not manner in which you go on strike, this isn’t a solution also. On contrary it aggravates the situation to go on strike, raise slogans in courtrooms etc this isn’t the way to resolve” the Bench said
Redressal between Bar and Bench should be Cordial: SC
Justice Shah stated that the redressal between Bar and Bench should be cordial, and holding strikes will only further spoilt the relations.
“Bar is also a part of Justice delivery system. So they should also act responsibly. What message will you give to society? That a noble profession, are going on strike and raising slogans in courtroom. Despite several orders this is happening. Bar Council of India needs to take a call.” Justice Shah said
Threatening Chief Justice Holding Strikes ” Dangerous Trend” “Browbeating”: SC
The Bench stated that threatening the Chief Justice of a High Court to change the roster or to decide in a particular way has become a dangerous trend.
Justice Shah said ” Unfortunately, we have to say with greatest respect to the Chief Justice, he succumbed to the pressure. He changed the roster on call. He could’ve asked judge to take matter same day due to urgency but he assigned it to another judge? So that single judge would be demoralised? We don’t want this Justice delivery system.”
“What message will be given, go on strike, judge is strict or not accommodative, pressurise Chief Justice and get roster changed and achieve the result! It is a dangerous trend Its nothing but brow beating. This can’t be tolerated.” Justice Shah said.
It was on October 5, 2021 that the Court had issued notice and had directed the President, Secretary and the Office Bearers of the Bar Association of the High Court of Rajasthan at Jaipur to show cause why contempt proceedings may not be initiated against them.
On a later hearing date, the Supreme Court had observed that no bar association can put pressurise the Chief Justice to change the roster of a judge.
The issue relates to the Jaipur Bar Association’s boycott of the court of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma on September 27. The resolution for the boycott was passed after the judge reportedly refused to give an urgent listing to a petition seeking protection for a lawyer. The association demanded that the roster be changed to remove criminal matters from the bench of Justice Sharma. In a related development, the Central Government notified the transfer of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma to Madhya Pradesh High Court last week, pursuant to a Supreme Court collegium recommendation made in October.
The Supreme Court issued the show-cause notice for contempt to the Jaipur Bar Association in the case District Bar Association, Dehradun through its Secretary v. Ishwar Shandilya & Ors, in which it has taken suo motu cognizance of the trend of lawyers strikes. The bench had earlier sought the assistance of the Bar Council of India to address the issue.
The Bar Council of India later told the bench that after a meeting with the State Bar Councils, it is proposing to frame rules to curtail strikes by lawyers and court boycotts and to take action against bar associations who act in breach and against advocates who promote such strikes through social media.
On a subsequent hearing date, the bench said that it will pass a “detailed order” to deal with this issue. The bench also observed that it is considering setting up grievance redressal mechanism at local levels for lawyers so that their legitimate grievances can be addressed through a proper platform instead of resorting to strikes.
On February 28, 2020, the Supreme Court, taking a serious note of the fact that despite consistent decisions of the Court, the lawyers/Bar Associations go on strikes, had taken suo moto cognisance and issued notices to the Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils to suggest the further course of action and to give concrete suggestions to deal with the problem of strikes/abstaining the work by the lawyers.
The suo motu action of the Court came while dismissing an appeal filed by the District Bar Association Dehradun against a judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court which declared the lawyers strikes illegal.