Lawyer Complains To Chief Justice About Fellow Judge. His Response

Chief Justice of India Chandrachud warned the lawyer against making allegations against judges

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court today witnessed dramatic exchanges when a Lucknow-based advocate requested two separate benches to pardon him and remove costs imposed on him for filing frivolous Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

First, a bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Augustine G Masih pulled up Lucknow-based advocate Ashok Pandey for not paying cost of Rs 50,000 imposed on him. The cost was imposed last year after the top court dismissed the lawyer’s plea challenging the appointment of Supreme Court advocates as High Court judges.

The bench noted that the lawyer travelled abroad soon after the court imposed the cost. “Now you cannot say that you can’t pay cost of Rs 50,000,” the bench said, noting that he is a “practising lawyer”.

To this, Mr Pandey said he has not got a single case since last year and that his trip was “sponsored by my kids”.

“You pay the cost in a week else we will issue a contempt (notice). Are you willing to pay in 2 weeks or not? You are the member of the bar, we request you to answer it clearly,” the bench said.

The lawyer replied that his “children are rich, but I am poor”. Referring to former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, he claimed, “I had initially filed several petitions for CJI Dipak Misra when a lot of allegations were put against him. Nobody from this court supported him but I was there. I have requested the CJI and President of India for the payment in those cases. CJI has referred my matter to SCLSC (Supreme Court Legal Services Committee) for payment. I will pay lordship.”

Justice Oka granted the lawyer time till August 5 and added that the court will issue a contempt notice if the payment is not made by then.

The lawyer was then puilled up by another bench — of Justice BR Gavai and Justice KV Viswanathan — for not paying Rs 1 Lakh imposed on him in a separate matter. This was in connection to a PIL last year in which Mr Pandey had challenged the reinstatement of the Lok Sabha Membership of NCP’s Mohd Faizal Padippura. The court had come down heavily on the lawyer over the frivolous PIL. Mr Pandey has earlier also challenged the oath taken by the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court. He had said that the Chief Justice did not say “I” while taking the oath. This lawyer had also challenged the restoration of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership, attracting another fine. 

Justice Gavai asked the lawyer, “How many courts have imposed cost on you?” He replied, “Please recall the cost. I don’t have money.” The bench rejected the plea, but the lawyer persisted. “If you don’t leave the court, we will have to embarrass ourselves,” Justice Gavai said.

The lawyer stayed put and said, “I am requesting with folded hands. This is no contempt, Sir… Please remove cost from this case.” He then addressed Justice Gavai and said, “You are also going to be next CJI.” The judge responded, “God knows”, and added, “Are you leaving or not? We have to call the security personnel.”

Justice Gavai is the third seniormost judge in Supreme Court and is in line to be Chief Justice of India.

This was not all. Mr Pandey then approached Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and complained against Justice Gavai. He said that the senior judge had warned him that his “sanad” — meaning licence to practice law — will be revoked. 

The Chief Justice replied that heated arguments do take place, but warned the lawyer against making such allegations. “You cannot make allegations like this on the judges of the bench. They never misbehave with lawyers. If you want to challenge the fines, file a review,” he said.  

The Supreme Court has pulled up petitioners and lawyers over frivolous PILs, with Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud saying that the public is paying for precious judicial time.