1. This is an application by one Mr. Siri Ram Gautama for admission to the roll of advocates of the High Court of the East Punjab, or, in the alternative, for admission as a pleader to the said High Court.
2. Mr. Gautama who is a resident of Jullandur District was admitted as a pleadar of the Chief Court of the Punjab in March 1916 and as an advocate of the High Court at Lahore on 25th February 1927. He left India towards the end of August 1929 and was admitted to practise as an advocate of His Majesty's Supreme Court of Kenya in March 1930. In the year 1941 he was charged with the offence of having offered an illegal gratification to a Police Prosecutor. A conviction followed and a sentence was passed and thereupon as a matter of course his name was struck off the roll of advocates on 26th June 1942. A copy of the order by which he was dismissed was forwarded to the High Court at Lahore and Mr. Gautama's name was removed from the roll of the said High Court on 22nd April 1946. On the enactment of the Independence Act, 1947, the Punjab was split up into two provinces each province having a High Court of its own. On 7th October 1947, Mr. Gautama applied to the High Court of the East Punjab for restoration of his name to the roll of advocates but was informed that this Court had no jurisdiction to restore the name of an advocate whose name had been removed by an order of the High Court at Lahore. On 6th March 1948, the petitioner applied to this Court for fresh admission to the roll of advocates of the High Court of the East Punjab, or, in the alternative, for admission as a pleader of the said Court. This application has now been placed before us for consideration.
3. Mr. Gautama's application for admission as an advocate must be dismissed on the short ground that he does not possess any of the qualifications specified in chap. 6-A of vol. 5 of the Rules and Orders of this Court.
4. The rules in regard to the admission of pleaders are contained in chap. 6-D of vol. 5 of the Rules and Orders of this Court. Rule 1 declares that any graduate who has obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts at one of the recognized Universities in British India may be admitted as a pleader of this Court. Rule 2 requires an applicant to state whether he has been convicted by a criminal Court and to submit with his application a certificate from a person of standing and respectability that he is suitable in every way for admission as a pleader. I The use of the word 'may' in Rule 1 makes it quite [dear that this Court is not bound to enroll a person who satisfies the necessary educational and other qualifications; it has a discretion to refuse to admit a person 'who is unfit to fill the j position of a member of the Bar. This power is inherent in the Court for the power of admission obviously includes the power of rejection. If, therefore, a candidate for admission has done something which would be regarded as disgraceful or dishonourable if done by a member of the legal profession, the Court would be doing nothing more than its duty in declining to admit him. Indeed, it seems to me that the admission of a person as an advocate or pleader is regulated by precisely the same principles as the admission of an advocate or pleader who has been struck off the roll and who applies for leave to be again put upon the roll.
5. It has always been the policy of the law that the fountain of justice should be kept pure and undefiled and that nothing should be done which is likely to impair the credit and authority of the Judges or the reputation of the members of the legal profession. Advocates and pleaders have very delicate and onerous duties to perform not only to the litigants who seek their advice or for whom they appear in Court but also to the profession of law. It is thus of the utmost importance that they should be persons of honour and respectability in whose honesty and integrity the Judges and the litigants alike should be able to place implicit reliance. If their character is tainted or their reputation soiled they cannot be allowed to remain members of the honourable profession. In all cases of misconduct the Court must ask itself the question which was propounded by Lord Mensfield as long ago as the year 1778 in Ex parte Brunsall 2 Cown. 829 namely, 'whether after the conduct of this man it is proper that he should continue a member of a profession which should stand free from all suspicion'. When a person is convicted of a criminal offence a presumption at once arises that he is not a fit and proper person to remain on the roll of advocates. This presumption is a rebuttable one and it is open to the person concerned to show that the crime of which he was convicted does not detract from the confidence which his clients or the other members of the legal profession repose in him.
6. It is then for the Court to decide whether having regard to all the facts and circumstances of the case his name should be struck off the rolls or whether a lighter punishment should be awarded to him. If the Court decides to remove his name that decision is not final or irrevocable. It may be reviewed after the delinquent has had an opportunity of redeeming his character. In re Brandreth (1891) 60 L.J.Q.B. 501 Lord Coleridge expressed the view that there is no occasion on which it is absolutely, as a point or rule of law, impossible for a man to redeem his character. In the same case Mathew, J. held that the Court has power, even when it is proved clearly that there has been an offence against the criminal law, but where the atonement of a long period of good conduct has been offered, to restore the delinquent to the position of confidence forfeited by his misconduct. In re Pyke (1865) 34 L.J.Q.B. 121 at P. 123, Cockburn C.J. observed as follows:
When we find that for a breach of professional conduct a gentleman has been excluded, and has suffered 20 years' exclusion, if we were perfectly satisfied that that sentence however, right it was when it was pronounced, had had the salutary effect of awakening him to a higher sense of honour and of principle and that he could show us that having suffered the humiliation, and all the serious consequences as affecting his interests in life, which such a sentence must necessarily carry with it, he had been awakened to a higher sense of honour and principle, I do not think we should have been inexorable to an application of this kind.
Later in the judgment the learned Chief Justice makes the following pertinent observations:
Nevertheless, I do not think that rule should be so inexorable as that after a man has undergone a long period of exclusion and punishment and suffering that that carries with it, if we are satisfied that his conduct has been such in the meantime as to insure confidence in his character, we might not either admit him in the first instance or readmit him.
7. The principles propounded in these authorities have been followed not only by the Courts in England, Australia or America but also by the Courts in this country and it has been held that the High Court has power, when a legal practitioner has been dismissed for misconduct of any description, to re-admit him after a lapse of time if he satisfies the Court that he has in the interval conducted himself honourably and that no objection remains as to his character and capacity : vide In re Abir-ud-Din Ahmad 38 Cal. 309, In re an Advocate I.L.R. A.I.R. 1937 Bom. 48 and in the matter of R. a Muhhtar A.I.R. 1937 All. 60.
8. There is no fixed rule as to the period which should ordinarily elapse before a person can be re-admitted to the roll of advocates or pleaders. Certain English cases, however, provide valuable precedents. In King v. Greenwood (1760) 1 W. Back 223 an attorney was restored after a period of two years, the Court observing that the removal of the name of a person from the roll was not to be understood as a perpetual disability but was sometimes only meant as a punishment. In the anonymous case reported as Anonymous (1853) 51 E.R. 1118 a solicitor who had been struck off the roll for misconduct was restored after a lapse of ten years during which, amidst great privation and suffering he had maintained an irreprcachable character, the application being supported by a memorial signed by a very large number of solicitors and opposed by only one solicitor. In re Bobbins (1865) 34 L.J.Q.B. 121 an attorney having been struck off the roll in 1859 for misappropriating to his own use money received from a client for a particular purpose was restored to the roll in 1865 on the affidavit of numerous attorneys to his good character and conduct in the interval. In re Pyke (1865) 34 L.J.Q.B. 220 a solicitor's name was struck off the roll in 1845. After a lapse of 20 years he applied for leave to be re-admitted an attorney. The Court refused, unless he could satisfy them by the testimony of trustworthy persons, especially members of the profession that his conduct and character had been unimpeached and unimpeach-able in the meantime; but afterwards dispensed with this on bis showing that he could not obtain such testimony in consequence of his having lived during that period in complete retirement.
9. The question now arises whether during the six years that have elapsed since his removal Mr. Gautama has endeavoured to redeem his character and to atone for the crime admitted by him in the year 1942. It appears that he managed the legal offices of his son Mr. S.C. Gautama, Barrister-at-law, from October 1942 to June 1944 and the offices of his ttvo sons Mr. S.C. Gautama and Mr. R.C. Gautama from July 1944 till the date of his departure for India in September 1945. He was elected President of the Arya Samaj in 1944 and that of the Indian Association in January 1945. A large number of very prominent and respectable citizens of Eldoret have testified to the fact that Mr. Gautama has completely regained his sense of honour and duty and that he commands the respect and esteem of the general public of the town. Amongst these persons are his two sons Mr. S.C. and Mr. R.C. Gautama under whom he had occasion to work as managing clerk, Mr. Juma Hajee a municipal commissioner and president of the Merchants Chamber and of the Indian Association Dr. Anant Ram; President of the Kenya Asian Civil Service Association, Mr. Esmail Lalji, a general merchant and landlord, Mr. Nanak Chand, president of the Hindu Union, Mr. Darshi Bhai Madharji, general merchant, and Mr. Lekh Raj Aggarwal, chairman and managing director of the Building and Trading Co. Ltd. Most of these gentlemen have had occasion to come into close contact with Mr. Gautama either as clients or in other capacities. Mr. D.B.W. Good, Resident Magistrate of Kisumu, expresses the view that with the exception of one lapse which led to Mr. Gautama's conviction, the latter's conduct as an advocate was exemplary. He was unable to recall a single breach of professional etiquette, even of the most trivial kind, on his part or a single instance in which Mr. Gautama fell short of the highest standards of professional conduct. Mr. K.G.G. Lindsay, District Commissioner, Mr. D. J. Coffey, and Mr. G. Burkitt Rudd, Resident Magistrates of Eldoret, think that so far as Mr. Gautama's contacts with them were concerned his conduct was exemplary. His professional brethren of standing and competency also speak of his character in high terms. Mr. W.W. Cresswell, Advocate, Nakuru, who had had occasions to deal with Mr. Gautama, believes that the latter sincerely regrets the offence of which he was convicted and that he has behaved in an exemplary manner both in legal matters and otherwise and that he is determined to persevere in honourable conduct. His views are fully shared by certain other advocates practising in the Kenya Colony such as Mr. T.N. Upadhya, Mr. Dhanwant Singh, Mr. Dharam Vir Kohli and M.A. Majid Dar. A number of legal practitioners of the Punjab have stated on affidavit that ever since his exclusion from pratice Mr. Gautama has maintained an irreproachable character and has conducted himself as a man of honour and respect. These strong affidavits and testimonials leave no doubt in my mind that Mr. Gautama has done all that was possible for him to do to retrieve his reputation, I am clearly of the opinion that in view of the suffering and humiliation which he has undergone during the last six years and of the repentance which he has shown he will be upright, honourable and honest in all his future' dealings.
10. For these reasons, I am of the opinion that Mr. Gautama's application should be allowed and that he should be admitted a pleader of this Court.
Teja Singh, J.