1. In the criminal case, it is true, we acquitted the pleader, Mr. Sule. But that was because the evidence fell somewhat short of the strict proof that was necessary to convict him of the offence of cheating and to show, beyond all reasonable doubt, that he was privy to the offence with the Marwadi Hazarimal. Under our disciplinary-jurisdiction at present, what we have to consider is whether the pleader has been guilty of such misbehaviour or professional misconduct as to warrant our punishing him under that jurisdiction. Here too, no doubt, as the inquiry is of a quasi-criminal character, we must have strict proof but the proof required is not of cheating but professional misconduct. In my opinion, the evidence and circumstances are sufficient to enable us to come to the conclusion, that instead of protecting the interests of his client, the pleader was in this transaction of the mortgage deliberately protecting the interests of his client's creditor in breach of his duty and that he has tried to exculpate himself by making conflicting statements in defence of his conduct.
2. Now, in the first place, I cannot believe Mr. Sule's defence either before the Committing Magistrate, or in the Sessions Court, or his present defence that he was ignorant of what was going on in his office as to this mortgage transaction when the deed was being drawn up, and that he did not know of its contents. It is admitted that the creditor of his client was a Marwadi moneylender residing in Thana: that the pleader was his tenant and that the Marwadi was living opposite to him. Whether he did take any part in the negotiations for the loan, or not, may be open to doubt. But it is clear beyond doubt that he was aware of all that the parties were doing and of all that took place in his office. Mr. Sule's defence is that while the deed was being written he was, no doubt, there, but that he was busy with some other work. We are not told what that work was, nor does he explain whether after the deed had been drawn up the parties went away without telling him of what had been done. And although Mr. Sale says that he cannot exactly remember what statement he made before the Police Inspector, or how much of it is true and how much of it is false, yet it is clear that the statement, which the Sub-Inspector says he made, was made. The Sub-Inspector has deposed that Mr. Sule's statement was taken down in writing word for word and that after it had been written out it was read over to him, Mr. Sule says that he was too perplexed at the time to understand or remember what he said to the Sub-Inspector. But the statement shows that before the Sub-Inspector he admitted that he knew of what had taken place in his office. Then, what was his defence before the Committing Magistrate or before the Sessions Court? Before both these tribunals he professed complete ignorance.
3. Upon the whole, I think, that the conclusion which has been arrived at by the learned Sessions Judge in connection with this enquiry under our disciplinary jurisdiction is correct, that Mr. Sule has been guilty of professional misconduct, in that, instead of protecting the interests of his client, he sided with the latter's money-lender, and that he was at least guilty of gross negligence and breach of duty towards his client. And although it is not proved that he was actually privy to the offence of cheating with the money-lender, still he did, by the attitude which he adopted and by his gross negligence, endeavour to further the machinations of the money-lender and thus exposed his client to considerable loss and trouble.
4. Conduct of this kind ought to be, as far as possible, discouraged by this Court. A high standard of rectitude, diligence, duty and zeal ought to be required of pleaders in the interests of the Bar, whether in this Court or in the moffusil. Mr. Sule has fallen far below that ideal. We think the proper way to deal with him under our disciplinary jurisdiction is to suspend his sanad for six months Mr. Sule should make over his sanad to the Registrar within a week and on the expiration of six months the sanad will be returned to Mr. Sule on his applying for it to the Registrar.
5. There is no doubt that Sule was first employed as a pleader by Karsan about the 16th April and visited and had interviews with Karsan who was residing at Bhiwandi, a town at some distance from Thana Karsan desired to file a suit concerning a property of considerable value but had no means to do it and Sule clearly knew this. It is established, beyond any question, that Sule was anxious about his fee and at first tried to secure it by means of a bond; but that fell through. It is somewhat remarkable that Sule fixed his fee at the very high sum of Rs. 1,000--a very unusual fee for a young and inexperienced pleader. Karsan had to obtain a loan if the suit was to go on and Sule knew this perfectly well and realised that if Karsan failed to obtain a loan there would be no suit and, consequently, no fee for the pleader. In this way the pleader was interested --very nearly interested in the arrangement for the loan. The arrangement was made with the Marwadi Hazarimal, who was the pleader's landlord, and as the evidence shows with considerable distinctness, his friend, if not his constant employer. The deed, that is, the deed of mortgage, by means of which this loan was to be secured, was drafted, it was executed and attested in the pleader's office and by means of it the pleader's fee also was secured.
6. Those being the facts I ask myself whether I can infer anything but that Sule did take part in the negotiations which preceded and culminated in the deed; anything but that he knew perfectly well the whole object and purpose for which this mortgage deed was to be taken and that he knew its terms. I cannot infer anything else. And I can come to no other conclusion than that Sule had taken an active part in bringing about that mortgage-deed; and this whilst Karsan was relying on him for advice and help. All this he has denied, and he had to deny it, because, it must have been obvious to him that anything but a denial, that any admission of participation in so ruinous and unconscionable a transaction, condemned him at once in the eyes of honest men.
7. It comes to this: in order to secure his own fee and possibly partly to oblige his friend and landlord, the Marwadi, the pleader was an active party to placing his client in the hands of the Marwadi. The latter made a bargain with the client wholly unscrupulous and extortionate. Sule knew (I find he must have known) its terms; yet he did not advise or warn his client but permitted him to enter into the bargain. Is it or is it not professional misconduct? To me the matter does not appear to be open to question. It is professional misconduct of a grave kind: of a kind which, if permitted, would tend to corrupt and demoralize the legal profession. And speaking for myself, I think, in suspending the sanad for six months only, we are dealing with Sule with extraordinary leniency, leniency that I can only be a party to in consideration of his youth, and that there yet remains to him time long enough to show that bad though his beginning has been he is capable of better things.