1. This petition arises out of a reference made on 30-1-1951 by theDeputy Commissioner, Mysore, to the Registrar of this Court, requesting that action may be taken against the respondent, under Section 11, Legal Practitioners Act. 1 is stated in that reference that the respondent who is a pleader, failed to refund a sum of Rs. 150/- entrusted to him by the Municipal Council of Merle in Krishnarajanagar Taluk. The High Court forwarded the said reference to the District Judge, Mysore, for enquiry and report. The learned District Judge after recording evidence and taking the statement of the pleader, came to the conclusion that the pleader had failed to refund the balance of the amount due by him to the Municipal Council either at the time when the demand was made or within a reasonable time thereafter The said report is for consideration before us under Section 13, Legal Practitioners Act.
2. It is seen from the records that the pleader was entrusted by the Municipal Council of Merle with a sum of Rs. 250/- in the year 1938 and 1939 for filing suits and when the Council required him to render accounts and refund the balance due, he took up the very unreasonable attitude of requesting the Council to entrust him with additional cases so that the balance due by him may be worked off against the moneys which he expected as his fee for such additional cases which he prayed to be entrusted with. With these importunities, he went on gaining time and occasioned an unreasonable delay in complying with the demand. It is further seen that the arrears due to the Municipal Council were Rs. 181/- and when the pleader disputed the actual figure, he was asked in February 1950 to deposit a sum of Rs. 150/- and in his reply dated 8-2-1951 the pleader agreed to settle the account and deposit the amount within a month. In our opinion the pleader could not have expected a more lenient or generous attitude than was shown to him by the Council, But in spite of this the pleader did not deposit the amount till so late as 8-6-1951. On these materials the learned District Judge found that there was no excuse or justification for the delay of four months in making good the amount, which in fact is nothing short of. misappropriation. This is essentially a Question of fact and the High Court will not ordinarily interfere with the finding arrived at by an enquiring tribunal unless it is shown that that finding is manifestly unreasonable or perverse.
3. Mr. S. Srikantaiya, the learned Counsel for the respondent here, was frankly unable to advance any convincing reasons to show that the finding of the learned District Judge was erroneous or unreasonable, or point out any justifying circumstances he contented himself by making an appeal for mercy and lenient treatment of his client.
4. In the course, of the arguments, it was brought to the notice of the Court, that the Deputy Commissioner has since made a request for the withdrawal of the case and that the Advocate-General has also been instructed by Government to request the Court to drop the proceedings against the respondent. A perusal of the records shows that the Deputy Commissioner had made an earlier reference on 5-7-1951 to the High Court for withdrawal of the proceedings, and that the High Courthad declined to accede to that request, and had by an order dated 12-7-1951 directed the continuance of the proceedings. Thereupon the Deputy Commissioner appears to have made yet another reference in like terms to the Advocate-General and also to the Government, who in their turn forwarded the entire correspondence to the Advocate-General, apparently endorsing the view of the Deputy Commissioner. All this is seen very clearly from the concerned papers which the learned Advocate-General has been good enough to place before us. We confess that we are not a little surprised at the curious procedure adopted by the Deputy Commissioner and the equally curious way in which the Government have apparently supported him. In our opinion, such a procedure is, to say the least, highly irregular and unwarranted, specially in proceedings under the Legal Practitioners Act which confers on the High Court wide disciplinary powers over the members of the Bar, in the larger interest of the litigant public and for the sound administration of justice.
5. Turning now to the reasons given by the Deputy Commissioner for seeking the proceedings withdrawn, we find them hollow and untenable. He stales that it has since been reported by the Municipal Council that the, pleader has made good the balance of the amount duo by him and in view of that and also in consideration of his old age the pleader deserves lenient treatment. If the mere recovery of the amount was the intention of the Deputy Commissioner, it was open to him to have launched proceedings under the ordinary law without resorting to the aid of the High Court and invoking its jurisdiction under the Legal Practitioners Act. The consideration on the ground of old age is hardly to the point since age should bring with it experience and maturity and a high standard of professional conduct and integrity. In our opinion the conduct of the petitioner is hardly consistent with that of a member of the honourable profession to which he belongs. Dealing with a similar case, Beasloy C. J. remarks in -- 'In the matter of T. N. P an Advocate', 1930 Mad WN 216 (A):
'It is also incredible that an Advocate conducting several suits for a party should not keep any books or any record at all of the payments made by him on behalf of his clients. We are told that this practice is quite a common one and, if it is so, it cannot be condemned too strongly and I wish it, to be understood hereafter that it is the duty of every advocate who received money on behalf of his client to conduct litigation with, to keep an account of how that money has been applied.'
In a case reported in -- 'A, a Mukhtar in the matter of, AIR 1946 Pat 357 (FB) (B), their Lordships of the Patna High Court observe that
'A person who derogates from the high standard demanded of legal practitioner must not be permitted to be in a position wherein he compromises the interest of clients and the reputation of the profession to which he belongs and at the same time the reputation of the Court for the administration of justice. Lawyers are the officers of the Court and their misconduct cannot but affect thetrust which litigants are entitled to place in the conduct of legal proceedings.'
These are well recognised principles and judging the conduct of the respondent by these standards, we am constrained to remark that it is far from satisfactory, and is of such a serious nature as cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed.
6. There is another circumstance which in our opinion shows the conduct of the respondent in an even worse light. The same pleader had been suspended from practice by the High Court, for a period of four months in the year 1948 (vide C. P. 54/47-48). Obviously the punishment has not had any salutary effect on the respondent. The word 'incorrigible' may be a harsh word but in our opinion it appears to apply to the respondent with perfect propriety.
7. The question that remains for consideration is whether the respondent is fit to remain in the ranks of the honourable profession to which he is admitted. After some hesitation, we have decided not to take the extreme course of striking him oft from the Rolls, but to give him one more chance of mending his conduct; but at the same time, we must deal severely with him and we consider that suspension from practice in any of the Courts for a period of six months will suffice, and we order accordingly. The pleader will pay Rs. 50/- to Government being the costsof this petition.
8. Order accordingly.