1. This is a reference made by the District Judge, Cuttack, under Section 14, Legal Practitioners Act, in a proceeding against the opposite party Sri A. Krishna Rao who is a Pleader. In Misc. Case No. 25 of 1953, the Pleader appeared on behalf of his client, Sri M. Subba Rao and filed a memo of appearance representing that he had already filed a Vakalat for his client in the lower court. That Miscellaneous Case was an application filed by the plaintiff in Money Suit No. 188 of 1953, for transfer of that suit which was then pending inthe Court of the First Munsif, Cuttack. Shri M. Subba Rao was the defendant in that suit. The transfer application came up for hearing before the District Judge on 8-7-1953 and after arguments had been heard the case was posted to the next day for orders. The Court had also noticed that the Pleader had not filed any Vakalatnama for the defendant in the lower court and that the statement made by the Pleader that he had already filed it was incorrect.
The Court therefore ordered that the Pleader should 'file power by tomorrow positively'. The Pleader refused to file any Vakalat as directed. The District Judge therefore started proceedings against the Pleader under Section 13, Legal Practitioners Act, and framed a charge against the Pleader to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for professional misconduct in having made a false statement and duped the Court into believing that he had been engaged by the defendant.
2. In answer to the charge the opposite party pleaded that he had filed Vakalat for Shri M. Subba Rao in S. C. C. Suit No. 503/62 of 1952, S. C. C. Suit No. 17 of 1953 and Title Suit No. 8/16 of 1953 which were then pending before the Subordinate Judge, Cuttack and which had been ordered to be tried together. The Plaint in Money Suit No. 188 of 1953, pending in the Court of the First Munsif, Cuttack, was substantially the written statement in S. C. C. Suit No. 503/62 of 1952. The opposite party also pleaded that he merely represented to the Court that he had no objection to the Money Suit being transferred and that he did not address any arguments. His further plea was that when he asked his client to execute a Vakalatnama, as directed by the Court, the latter refused to give him a Vakalatnama. The learned District Judge held an enquiry and found that Money Suit No. 188 of 1953 was filed on 28-4-1953 and that the defendant M, Subba Rao was served with summons on 18-7-1953.
The other three suits between the parties had been ordered to be tried together, by an order of the District Judge, dated 5-3-1953. The memo of appearance In Misc. Case No. 25 of 1953 praying for transfer of Money Suit No. 188 of 1953 was filed on 23-6-1953 and arguments were heard on 8-7-1953. It is patent therefore that the Pleader Sri Krishna Rao could not have appeared in the money suit prior to 8-7-1953 as the summons in the suit had not been served on the defendant till 18-7-1953. In fact a Vakalat was actually filed in that suit on 11-8-1953. Proceedings under the Legal Practitioners Act were started on 15-7-1953 and the Pleader showed cause on 8-8-1953.
It is therefore apparent that the Pleader deliberately made a false statement before the Court that he had already appeared for the defendant in the lower court and that he filed a memo of appearance with a view to evade payment of Court-fee on a properly stamped Vakalat. The learned District Judge did not accept the statement made by the Pleader that his client Sri M. Subba Rao, refused to give a Vakalat as it was found that a Vakalat was actually filed on 11-8-1953, i. e., after the proceedings under theLegal Practitioners Act had been started. In these circumstances, we have no hesitation in holding that the statement made by the opposite party is deliberately false; and he could have had no excuse for acting under any wrong impression that he had already filed a Vakalat for his client.
3. The pleader appeared before us and argued his own case, the substance of his defence being that he was under a mistaken impression that he had already filed a Vakalatnama in the lower court; and that as he did not address any lengthy argument in the Miscellaneous Case no offence can be said to have been committed. He took up the position that he did not commit any illegality or irregularity deliberately and that the misconduct, if any, may be ignored.
4. It appears to us that the Pleader has not realised the gravity of the offence committed by him. It is also unfortunate that lie has not made a full and frank apology to the Court for his misconduct. He should have known that no Pleader can appear on behalf of a party without obtaining from him a properly stamped Vakalatnama in writing and that he could not have been led into believing that he had already appeared in a suit even before summons had been served on his client. Even if his client had so represented to him it was obviously his duty to verify the truth of such representation before making an assertion before the Court that he had already filed a Vakalatnama. It should be realized that a lawyer is not a mere agent of his client and is not bound to act as his client dictates. He has a responsibility to the Court which overrides his obligation to the client. He is to judge what is right and proper; and act in the interests of truth. He enjoys a privilege to practise in Courts of law by reason of his character and assurance of right conduct.
A lawyer's office is a badge of honour and a patent of trustworthiness derived from his position as an officer of the Court. The right to practise is a privilege granted to him by the Court and- is liable to be withdrawn whenever he betrays the trust reposed in him and loses the confidence of the Court. The Court is entitled to expect the highest rectitude and caution on the part of a lawyer, and accepts unquestioningly the statements made at the Bar as truth. As a member of an honourable profession his primary duty is to act in an honest and upright manner. The conduct of a lawyer who makes a palpably false statement recklessly is reprehensible and tantamounts to moral depravity which would justify his removal from the rolls. It shows that he is unfit to discharge the duties of his office and is unworthy of confidence. The opposite party is a junior member of the Bar and joined the profession about a year ago, but youth or inexperience is no extenuation for falsity and unworthy conduct. When such conduct is inconsistent with common honesty and uprightness it is our duty to protect the public, as well as the profession itself, against repetition of such conduct. We are therefore of the view that the pleader has been clearly guilty of grew misconduct in the discharge of his professional duty and, as sach, isliable to disciplinary action under the Legal Practitioners Act.
5. The question as to what should be the punishment in the circumstances of this case, has however given us some anxiety. While the Court is bound to maintain the dignity and prestige of the profession I am of opinion that the Pleader has been ill-advised by his client who is himself a senior Advocate of this Court and is also a relation of the Pleader. It has been represented to us that the Pleader lives in the house of his client and appears for him in all his litigations without charging any fees. It would therefore appear that he is more sinned against than sinning in this case. We are not therefore inclined to mete out any severe punishment to this young man, but would impress upon all Subordinate Courts to keep a vigilant eye on the conduct of this Pleader and of his client, so that such instances may not be repeated. We are also aware that this is the first case of its kind, which has come up before this Court and hope that this would serve as a warning to all practitioners that any departure from the strict path of honesty and rectitude on the part of a Pleader or Advocate will expose him to disciplinary action.
While, therefore, recording our disapproval of the conduct of the opposite party we do hope that this reprimand would be enough to Impress upon him the responsibilities of his being a member of the legal profession. He will, however, pay the costs of this reference, and we assess the hearing fee at Rs. 100/- (Rupees one hundred only). The reference is disposed of accordingly.
6. I agree.
7. I agree.