1. This case raises the question whether the Court has power to award costs in a petition against a pleader charging him with professional misconduct. The charge was investigated by the District Judge of Nellore, who held that the petitioner's allegations had no foundation and consequently dismissed the petition. He ordered the petitioner to pay the respondent his costs, and he fixed the pleader's fee at Rs. 50. The case has been brought before this Court under Section 15, Legal Practitioners Act. We consider that the District Judge was, justified in dismissing the petition, but that he had no power to award costs. At the same time we are of the opinion that an order for costs can be passed by this Court.
2. Section 14, Legal Practitioners Act, states the procedure to be followed when a charge of professional misconduct is brought in a subordinate Court. If the presiding officer finds the charge established and considers that the practitioner should be suspended or dismissed in consequence he must record his finding and grounds thereof and present a report to the High Court. The High Court may then acquit, suspend or dismiss the practitioner. The presiding officer of the subordinate Court has no power to pass an order of suspension or dismissal himself. He may acquit but if he considers that there is foundation for the charge he must submit his finding to the High Court for its orders. Section 15 says that the High Court in a case in which a practitioner has been acquitted otherwise than by an order of the High Court may call or the record and pass such order as it thinks fit. The power given to the High Court by this section is very wide.
3. Section: 14 contains no provision empowering a presiding officer of a subordinate Court to award costs and therefore he cannot make an order for; costs, but this does not mean that the High Court cannot. In a case which went to the Privy Council from the Allahabad High Court an order for costs made by that Court in a case which arose under Section 14 of the Act was upheld. The case is Asherfilal v. The Judges of the Allahabad High Court A.I.R. 1930 P.C. 60. The judgment of the Allahabad High Court has not been published, but we have obtained a copy of it and we find that the Court suspended a pleader from practice for a period of four years and directed that he should pay the costs of the Crown in the High Court, the costs being fixed at Rs. 1100. The pleader appealed to the Privy Council and their Lordships considered that as the pleader had been suspended from practice from 23rd January 1928 he would be adequately punished if the suspension ceased from 22nd November 1929. In directing the variation of the High Court's order in this respect the Judicial Committee expressly stated that there was to be no variation with regard to the order for costs. There is here the highest authority for the Court holding that a High Court has power, even in a case which comes before it under Section 14, to award costs. If it has power in dealing with a case under Section 14, it must also have power to make an order for costs in a case under Section 15. The section says that it may pass what order it thinks fit.
4. This opinion accords with that expressed by a Full Bench of this Court in In re an Advocate A.I.R. 1932 Mad. 131. In the Bar Councils Act the High Court is expressly authorized to pass such order as regards the payment of the costs of an inquiry against a practitioner under that Act and of the hearing in the High Court as it thinks fit. In re an Advocate A.I.R. 1932 Mad. 131 the case was instituted under the Legal Practitioners Act, but while it was pending, the Bar Councils Act came into force and the inquiry was continued under that Act. The argument was that inasmuch as the case had been, instituted under the Legal Practitioners Act and that Act contained no provision with regard to costs, costs could not be awarded. The Court refused to accept this proposition. It pointed out that the inquiry had in fact taken place under the Bar Councils Act and added that it was not prepared to concede that there was no jurisdiction to direct the payment of costs before that Act was passed.
5. In the course of the arguments, our attention has been drawn to the decisions of this Court in Sankaralinga Mudaliar v. Narayana Mudaliar A.I.R. 1922 Mad. 502 and Veerappa Naidu v. Avudayammal A.I.R. 1925 Mad. 438 but those cases related to the power of the High Court to award costs in criminal cases. They have no bearing on the case now before us, but even if they had we should be bound to follow the decision of the Privy Council in Aaherfilal v. The Judges of the Allahabad High Court A.I.R. 1930 P.C. 60. As we have already indicated we have taken this case up under Section 15, Legal Practitioners Act. This Court can, if it deems it just, itself pass an order for the payment of costs. The allegations which the complainant made were found to be without substance and the District Judge considered that some of them were vexatious. This is a proper case for the award of costs. We direct the complainant to pay the costs of the respondent in the District Court and we fix the nleader's fee at Rs. 50.