R.L. Narasimham, C.J.
1. The two references and the application under Article 226 of the Constitution were all heard together, and will be dealt with in one judgment.
2. The opposite party in the two civil references, Sri G. V. Ramamurty Patnaik is a Pleader (hereinafter referred to as the Pleader) practising at Gunupur in Koraput District. The criminal work of that place is in charge of the Stationary Sub-Magistrate who, as the ex-officio Munsif, is also empowered to dispose of uncontested Civil matters and to keep contested civil matters ready for hearing by the District Munsif of Jeypore whenever the latter goes to Gunupur on circuit.
3. In 1955-56 one Sri P. Pani was the Stationary Sub-Magistrate cum-ex-officio Munsif of Gunupur. Sri Ramamurty Patnaik and Sri Pani were not pulling onwell for several reasons which need not be mentioned here. It appears that as early as 1954 the Pleader cent a petition to the then District Magistrate of Koraput, Sri Kartar Singh, making allegations of dishonesty against Sri Pani. An enquiry was made by Sri Kartar Singh sometime in 1954 and he found no substance in the allegations. Early in 1955 the District Munsif of Jeypore drew up M. J. C. 8 of 1955, calling upon the Pleader to show cause why action may not be taken against him under the Legal Practitioners Act for certain irregularities committed by him in Execution Petition No. 15 of 1955. The Pleader filed a lengthy reply on 1-7-1955.
On 7-9-1956 he sent a representation to the District and Sessions Judge of Jeypore by registered post making several allegations against the ex-officio Munsif of Gunupur and also against some members of the clerical staff attached to his office. His ultimate prayer in that representation was for personal enquiry by the District and Sessions Judge and punishment of the clerical staff concerned and also for their transfer from that place. The learned District Judge sent the representation to the Munsif concerned for a report and the Munsif sought the permission of the District Judge to draw up proceedings under the Legal Practitioners Act, against the Pleader for having made reckless allegations against him. Permission was in due course granted and the ex-officio Munsif drew up two separate proceedings under the Legal Practitioners Act in respect of the allegations contained in the representation made to the District Judge.
4. Civil Reference No. 4 of 1956 arises out of the proceeding started by the Munsif in his capacity as me Stationary Sub-Magistrate of Gunupur and deals with those portions of the allegations which refer to his magisterial work. He framed nine specific charges in respect of the allegations contained in paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 28 of the representation and called upon the Pleader to show cause why his conduct may not be reported to the High Court for professional misconduct. The Pleader showed cause, but the Magistrate considered it to be unsatisfactory and submitted his report through the District Magistrate and the Sessions Judge.
The District Magistrate, while forwarding the report of the Stationary Sub-Magistrate through the Sessions Judge, recommended the Pleader's suspension from practice for a period of six months.
5. In Civil Reference No. 3 of 1.956 the same officer (Stationary Sub-Magistrate) in his capacity as ex-officio Munsif drew up another proceeding under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners' Act against the Pleader and framed two charges in respect of those portions of his representation to the District and Sessions Judge which relate to his work as a civil judicial officer. His report to the High Court was sent through the District Judge who supported the findings of the ex-officio Munsif,
6. In O. J. C. No. 47 of 1956 the Pleader challenged the validity of the entire proceeding under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners' Act mainly on the ground that inasmuch as his representation was made to the District and Sessions Judge, Teypore, the Stationary Sub-Magistrate and ex-officio Munsif of Gunupur had no jurisdiction to initiate such a proceeding.
7. This preliminary point may be disposed of first. Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act deals with the procedure when a charge of unprofessional conduct is brought against a Pleader 'practising in any subordinate Court.' Mr. Ramdas appearing for the Pleader urged that from the language used in Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act, it should be inferred that the jurisdiction of a Court to enquire into a charge of professional misconduct against aPleader arises only when such act of misconduct was committed in that Court and not if it was committed in any other Court. According to Mr. Ramdas, therefore, the acts constituting misconduct if any on the part of the Pleader were contained in the representation made by him to the District Judge on 7-9-1955, and the District Judge alone is competent to hold an enquiry. He had no jurisdiction to authorise the Stationary Sub-Magistrate of Gunupur to hold the enquiry.
8. It is admitted that the Pleader is practising in the Court of the Stationary Sub-Magistrate cum-ex-officio Munsif at Gunupur. Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act says (omitting immaterial portions) 'that if any such Pleader ........ practisingin any subordinate Court ...... is charged withany such misconduct as aforesaid . . .. the PresidingOfficer shall send him a copy of the charge and also a notice that on a date to be appointed therein such charge will be taken into consideration'. According to Mr. Ramdas the words 'is charged in such Court with any such misconduct' in the aforesaid section, should be construed to mean 'is alleged to have committed such misconduct in such Court' and that a Court's jurisdiction to draw up a proceeding under Section 14 of the Act would arise only if the act of misconduct was committed before it.
This argument seems to be based on a very narrow construction of the relevant words in Section 14 of the Act and does not give due importance to the words 'practising in any subordinate Court' occurring in that Section. It is well known that legal practitioners generally practise in certain specified Court in the State though there may not be any objection to their appearing in a particular case in some other Court also. It may be that a Pleader who ordinarily practises at Gunupur may also appear for a party in a case, at Rayaghada of Jeypore.
If such a Pleader commits an act of misconduct while appearing in a case at, say, Rayagada, it will be difficult to hold that he is practising in the Court of Rayaghada within the meaning; of Section 14. In my opinion the jurisdiction of a Court to take action against a delinquent Pleader, under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act, primarily depends not on the place where the alleged misconduct was committed, but on whether he ordinarily practises in that Court.
9. The Calcutta High Court, in In re, Rabindra Chandra Chatterji, AIR 1922 Cal 484 (SB) (A), took this view and in a Special Bench decision of the Patna High Court reported in A, a mukhtar, in the matter of, AIR 1938 Pat 17 (B), that decision was followed. Mr. Ramdas, however, drew my attention to some observations in In the matter of, Badrinarainlal, AIR 1954 Pat 337 (C), in which the aforesaid decision of the Patna High Court was commented upon as having been based on a failure to notice the earlier Patna decisions on the subject.
Thus, in Mt. Tanak Kishore, in the matter of AIR 1916 Pat 115 (D), Emperor v. Satyendra Nath, AIR 1920 Pat 274 (FB) (R) and Muktar Manzurul Haq v. Emperor, AIR 1923 Pat 185 (1) (SB) (F), it was observed that the Court where the alleged act of misconduct took place was the proper Court to draw up proceedings under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act against the pleader concerned. Mr. Ramdas, therefore urged we should not follow the principle laid down in AIR 1938 Pat 17 (SB) (B).
10. The earlier Patna decisions are, however, distinguishable. There, the main question for consideration was whether the Court where the Pleader committed an act of misconduct was competent to draw up proceedings against him, or else whether the Court to which it is subordinate or any other Court to which the case may be transferred, has jurisdiction to draw up such proceedings. Thus in AIR 1916Pat 115 (D), Mullick J. observed that a proceeding under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act should be continued in the Court in which the malpractice complained of was committed and that there was no room for the contention that the enquiry may be delegated or transferred to any other officer.
In AIR 1920 Pat 274 (FB) (E), the misconduct was committed in the Court of a Deputy Magistrate of Purnea whereas the proceeding under Section 14 was drawn up and enquired into by the District Magistrate, the High Court held that the District Magistrate had no jurisdiction to draw up such a proceeding and hold the enquiry. In AIR 1923 Pat 185 (1) (SB) (F), a Mukhtar had committed misconduct in the Court of a Subdivisional Magistrate, but the Sessions Judge held an enquiry under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act and the High Court ruled that the Sessions Judge had no jurisdiction to hold such an enquiry and that it should have been held by the Subdivisioaal Magistrate. Similarly in In the matter of Vakils of Jhansi, AIR 1928 All 396 (G), it was held that where the misconduct of a Pleader took place in the Court of a joint Magistrate the enquiry should 'ordinarily' be held by the Magistrate and not by the District Magistrate.
11. It is now necessary to examine in detail AIR 1954 Pat 337 (SB) (C). There the pleader who was practising in the Court of the Munsif at Buxar was alleged to have committed an act of misconduct by temporarily misappropriating his client's money in an execution case pending in that Court. The Munsif did not hold a regular enquiry under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners' Act, but merely forwarded the matter to the District Judge with his opinion that the pleader was guilty of temporary embezzlement. The District Judge held an enquiry under Section 14 of the said Act and recommended disciplinary action against the Pleader concerned.
It was contended before the High Court that as the misconduct took place in the Court of the Munsif he alone had jurisdiction to hold a regular enquiry and that his superior officer, namely the District Judge, had no such jurisdiction. The learned Judges of the Patna High Court noticed the apparent conflict between AIR 1923 Pat 185 (1) (SB) (F) and AIR 1938 Pat 17 (SB) (B), hut observed that in any view of the case the District Judge had no jurisdiction to draw up such a proceeding becausei the Pleader did not either practise in his Court or commit an act of misconduct in his Court. Das J., in his judgment made this point quite clear in the following words :
'Whatever view one takes of Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act, the District Judge could not initiate a proceeding against the Pleader if the Pleader had neither the right to practise in his Court, nor did he in fact practice in the Court of the District Judge of Shahabad. The decree-holder made an application to the Munsif for taking necessary disciplinary action against the pleader. Whether that application was made to the Munsif as Presiding Officer of the Court in which the pleader practised, or as Presiding Officer of the Court in relation to a proceeding in whose Court the alleged malpractice was committed, it was the duty of the Munsif to hold an enquiry as contemplated by the first part of Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act.'
12. The distinguishing feature in all these cases is that the Court which held the enquiry was not the Court where the Pleader concerned was practising, but was a Court superior to the Court where either, the misconduct took place or the Pleader was practising. My attention has not been invited to the decision of any High Court where it was held that if the misconduct took place in one Court and the delinquent Pleader was practising in another Court, thelatter Court had no jurisdiction to draw up proceedings under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act. Ihave already quoted the essential portions of Section 14 and given proper emphasis to the words 'pleader practising in any subordinate Court.' The above decisions are therefore no authority for the narrow view that the Court where the Pleader practices has no jurisdiction at all to draw up proceedings under Section 14 unless the misconduct also took place in that very Court.
13. On the other hand, AIR 1922 Cal 484 (A) and AIR 1938 Pat 17 (SB) (B) are clear on the subject. Again, in a Madras decision reported in Venu-gopal Nayudu In re AIR 1926 Mad 1044 (H) the aforesaid Calcutta view was followed and it was observed that Section 14 of the Act does not limit the consideration of the charge to the Court in which the misconduct is alleged to have taken place.
14. In the instant case, as it is admitted that the pleader is practising in the Court of the Stationary sub-Magistrate cum--ex-officio Munsif, Gunupur, the latter's jurisdiction to draw up proceedings against him is clear, especially when the petition was forwarded to him by the District Judge, It is true that the petition was addressed to the District Judge at Jeypore, but the pleader was not practising at Jeypore, and I do not think the District Judge would nave jurisdiction to draw up proceedings against him. The preliminary objection raised by the pleader is, therefore, overruled and O.J.C. No. 47 of 1956 is dismissed.
15. Coming to the merits of the case the main question for consideration is whether the contents of the pleader's representation dated 7-9-1955 sent to the District and Sessions Judge reveal misconduct on his part. Extracts from the representation have already been incorported in the various charges framed against the pleader. It is unnecessary to repeat those charges in detail, but they will be considered in the light of the context bearing in mind the main purpose for which that representation was made. In the very first paragraph the pleader says:
'The following grievances are brought to the kind notice of the highest judicial authority of the district with a pious and fond hope to get redress and shelter against the partial and prejudicial treatment, both at the hands of the ex-officio Munsif Gunupur and stationary Sub-Magistrate 1st Class, and specially, since 26-3-1955, of the Civil Clerk employed to work at present at Gunupur'.
The use of the words 'partial and prejudicial treatment' while referring to they judicial officer shows clearly that the pleader was anxious to point out to the District Judge what he considered to be unjudicial conduct on the part of a judicial officer. In the second paragraph of his representation he clearly says that there is no love lost between him and the civil court clerks and also the ex-officio Munsif Gunupur, who is also the Stationary Sub-Magistrate, Gunupur. In paragraph 4 he refers to some differences between him and the Stationary Sub-Magistrate regarding the enhancement of house tax in Gunupur Union Board, and then insinuates that on account of those differences the Magistrate convicted the accused persons for whom the pleader appeared in G. Rule 104 of 1953.
He is aware that on appeal that order of conviction was upheld though a revision petition had been filed in the High Court. The very fact that the appellate court upheld the conviction is sufficient to show that the Magistrate's order was not based on any bias against the pleader appearing for the accused in that case and the pleader should not have made such insinuations against a judicial officer. Again, in paragraph 5 the Pleader suggeststhat all cases in which he appeared for a party were decided against that party merely because the Magistrate was prejudiced against him. Such a sweeping accusation against a judicial officer should not have been made without giving further particulars to show that the orders passed by that officer were untenable on merits.
In paragraph 6 he charges the Magistrate with showing a partisan attitude towards the prosecution, and with incorrect recording of depositions, but he admits that such things are done not only in respect of cases handled by him but also by some other lawyers. It does not in any way show bias against the pleader. In paragraph 8 he refers to 'several more instances' (without mentioning them) in which he had incurred the displeasure of the Magistrate for speaking the truth in consequence of which the Magistrate's grudge against him gained strength, from day to day.
16. In his show cause petition before the learned Magistrate, the pleader has added insult to injury by characterising the Magistrate and his clerks as 'miscreants' (vide paragraph 1 of the show cause petition). In paragraph 8 of the same petition, however, he admitted that he might have expressed himself with some degree of carelessness in his petition; addressed to the District Judge. In a subsequent petition, dated 21-1-1956, he stated that he 'repented and regretted' some unpleasent references which he had made in his petition. The Stationary Sub-Magistrate in his forwarding report has characterised all the allegations made against him as false. Even if he had decided some cases against the pleader that was because of his view regarding the facts and law in those particular cases and not because of any prejudice against the pleader.
In this Court also the pleader has not attempted to justify the imputations which he made against the integrity of the Stationary Sub-Magistrate, but urged that the main purpose of his representation to the District Judge was to bring to his notice the intrigues of the clerks in the Gunupur office so that proper action may be taken against them. He has tendered unqualified apology for the unhappy and unchaste language used in his representation to the District Judge.
17. The allegations made against the same Judicial Officer in his capacity as ex-officio Munsif are equally reckless. In paragraph 13 of his representation dated 7-9-1955 to the District Judge it was stated as a fact that in M. J. C. No. 8 of 1955 started against the pleader by the District Munsif of Jeypore the pleader had tiled an explanation on 1-7-1955 noting therein clearly that 'the ex-officio Munsif spoke falsehood by describing Sri Duggisvalasa Rangarao Patnaik alias Trinathrao Patnaik as my clerk'. But he did not state anywhere in that explanation (which is also a part of the record) that the ex officio Munsif spoke falsehood by describing the aforesaid Duggivalasa Rangarao Patnaik alias Trinathrao Patnaik as his clerk.
As a matter of fact the District Judge had granted the Registered Clerk's card, on 6-1-1955, to Trinathrao Patnaik, showing Sri G. V. Ramamurti Patnaik as his pleader. The pleader's case is that the card was not received by him in time and that, in the meanwhile the clerk had left bis service. Whatever that may be, even the ex-officio Munsif, basing his opinion on the card sent to him in due course by the District Judge, described Trinathrao Patnaik as his clerk, that would not amount to speaking falsehood. In fact, the pleader himself did not say so in his explanation dated 1-7-1955. In his representation to the District Judge he recklessly stated that the Munsif spoke falsehood.
The pleader now admits that he used careless language and all that he meant was that an incorrectstatement was made by the Munsif. Again in paragraph 22 of the representation he asserted that theex-officio Munsif was mechanically signing the notes and orders put up by the clerks who had ill-feelings towards the pleader and that he was not getting justice. Rule 21 Ch. 2 of G. R. C. O. (Civil) Vol. I, Part III, p. 73, authorises the writing of order sheets by an officer of the Court at the dictation ofthe Presiding Judge who shall be responsible forthe correctness of the entries made therein.
A sweeping generalization to the effect thatall notes and orders in the order-sheets are written by the clerks and that the ex-officio Munsif mechanically signs the same on account of his ill-feeling towards the pleader, should not have been made without further materials to support such a statement. In this Court the pleader has made no attempt to justify the above allegation made in his representation to the District Judge and has tendered unqualified apology for the unhappy and unchaste language.
18. A legal practitioner, like any litigant, has undoubtedly a right to bring to the notice of the administrative superior of a court any delinquencies of an administrative nature committed by the presiding officer of that Court, for redress. But, as pointed out by the Supreme Court in Lalit Mohan v. Advocate General Orissa (S) AIR 1957 SC 250 (I) a legal practitioner is also an officer of the Court and owes a duty to the Court in which he is appearing. Imputations of partiality and unfairness should not be lightly made against a Judicial Officer, unless there are reasonable grounds for such imputation and they are made bona fide.
Doubtless, the aforesaid Supreme Court decision is distinguishable from the instant case inasmuch as, there, unfounded imputations were made in open court whereas, here, the allegations were made an a registered letter addressed to the District Judge of Jeypore. But even as regards communications made by a legal practitioner to the administrative superior of the Presiding Officer of a Court, there is sufficient authority for the view that the language should be balanced and reckless allegations which could not be substantiated later, on should not be made.
In Government Pleader Andhra v. Vajiravelu Chetty AIR 1956 Andhra 84 (at p. 86) (J) it was pointed out that a complaint sent bona fide againsta Sub-Divisional Magistrate, to the District Magistrate, for redress of certain grievances, without undue publicity, may be unexceptionable. In this connection I may quote the following passage at pages 123-124 of Mr. K. V. Krishnaswamy Ayyar's 'Professional Conduct and Advocacy' -- Oxford University Press, Third Edition:
'It is not unusual in this country as perhaps it as elsewhere also, for a losing client to make improper suggestions about the Judge. Never allow scandal of this sort to be suggested by your client, I trust that the whole bar acts with one mind on this matter. Judges are not free to defend themselves and are therefore particularly entitled to receive the support of the Ear against unjust criticism and clamour. We cannot forget that the Bar and the Bench are mutually dependent and indeed members of one body and that the Bar stands to gain by the reputation for incorruptibility of the Bench. Conversely, it is the spirit of the Bar that must deepen and confirm the instinct of a Judge for fearless decision. This does not mean that, even though there is proper ground for a serious complainant against a judicial officer, it is the duty of the lawyernot to submit his grievances to the proper authorities in the proper manner.'
19. In the present case, therefore, the questionfor consideration is -- whether there were proper grounds for making the complaint against the judicial officer and whether they were made in the proper manner? Can it be said that the representation to the District Judge was made bona fide by the Pleader, or else whether he over-stepped the limits of propriety required of him as an officer of the Court? It is true that the representation deals mainly with the mischievous activities of the clerks attached to the office of the Stationary Sub-Magistrate-cum-ex-officio Munsif at Gunupur, but the Pleader has not hesitated to attribute partiality and prejudice to the judicial officer also on wholly inadequate material.
Merely because many of the cases in which the Pleader had appeared for a party were decided against that party he has jumped, to the conclusion that the judgments were partial; though he seems to have recognised that on appeal some of those judgments were upheld. He has also not hesitated to say that the Munsif has spoken falsehood though he now admits that what he meant to say was that the Munsif spoke something which was not correct. The language used was extremely unbalanced and even in his show cause petition before the judicial officer he has not hesitated to characterise) him along with his clerks as 'miscreants'.
In my opinion, the Pleader has over-stepped the limits of propriety expected from a member of the Bar practising before a Court. For some reason or other, he wanted to agitate for the transfer of this particular judicial officer from Gunupur. He made his first attempt by sending a petition to the District Magistrate of Koraput in 1954, but the then District Magistrate, after an enquiry in November, 1954, refused to take any action on that petition. He, therefore, sent the representation dated the 7th September. 1955 to the District Judge, painting the Stationary sub-Magistrate cum ex-officio Munsif, Gunupur, in the blackest colour possible, and imputing to him partiality and prejudice in passing judicial orders against the Pleader.
20. In view of the unconditional apology tendered by the pleader and also in view of the fact that the allegations were made in a registered letter, addressed to the District Judge, and that undue publicity was not given to the same by the pleader, I do not think any severe punishment is called for. I would accept the apology and let him off with a warning. The Pleader should, however, pay costs of Rs. 100/- (Rupees one hundred only) to the Advocate-General who appeared for the Court.
G.C. Das, J.
21. I agree.
S. Barman, J.
22. I agree.