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In Re: Babu Rasik Lal and Nag, a Muktear - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Judge
Reported in38Ind.Cas.980
AppellantIn Re: Babu Rasik Lal and Nag, a Muktear
Cases ReferredHelmore v. Smith
Excerpt:
legal practitioners act (xviii of 1819), an amended by act (xi of 1896), sections 13, 14 - contempt of court--disciplinary powers of court. - .....lal nag, a muktear practising in his court, and the district judge has in his opinion endorsed the views of the munsif. the circumstances which led the munsif to take action under section 14 may be briefly stated.2. on the 7th january 1916, kisori lal chatterjee, accountant in the office of the munsif of kustea, reported that while he was busy with hia work in his office room, the muktear, rasik lal nag, interrupted him, seriously threatened him, and, when asked to keep quiet, vilely abused him. the munsif, who held his court in an adjoining room, had himself heard the altercation. he, accordingly, issued a notice on the muktear under section 14, which set out the substance of the charge, and called upon him to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for.....
Judgment:

1. This is a report made under Section 14 of the Legal Practitioners Act by the Munsif of Kustea, through the District Judge of Nadia. The Munsif has recommended disciplinary action against Rasik Lal Nag, a Muktear practising in his Court, and the District Judge has in his opinion endorsed the views of the Munsif. The circumstances which led the Munsif to take action under Section 14 may be briefly stated.

2. On the 7th January 1916, Kisori Lal Chatterjee, accountant in the office of the Munsif of Kustea, reported that while he was busy with hia work in his office room, the Muktear, Rasik Lal Nag, interrupted him, seriously threatened him, and, when asked to keep quiet, vilely abused him. The Munsif, who held his Court in an adjoining room, had himself heard the altercation. He, accordingly, issued a notice on the Muktear under Section 14, which set out the substance of the charge, and called upon him to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for grossly improper conduct towards an officer of the Court. The Muktear entered appearance and contested the allegations of the accountant. The result was an elaborate enquiry by the Munsif, which led him to the conclusion that the conduct of the Muktear had been highly improper and merited severe condemnation. It appears that the Muktear, along with two other persons, was a litigant in a case in that very Court. A sum of Rs. 15-4-0 deposited in the Sub-Treasury at Kustea was jointly payable to them. The payment-order form was passed by the accountant on the 22nd December 1915 and under the rules of Court, was to remain in force for a period of 10 days. The Pleader employed by the parties did not, however, withdraw the money within the prescribed time. The result was that when, on the 7th January 1916, the Muktear, accompanied by his Pleader and clerk, went to receive payment, they were informed that the payment-order had lapsed, and that it would be necessary to apply for its renewal. This appears to have annoyed the Muktear, and an altercation ensued between him and the accountant. The evidence recorded in these proceedings shows that the Muktear abused the accountant, and the latter, not unnaturally, retaliated. It is extremely difficult, if not practically impossible, to allocate the blame precisely between the two contestants, but theMunsif, whose opinion is accepted by the District Judge, holds that the Muktear was the aggressor. It is plain, however, that the accountant had not much of a reputation for civility of manners, and, on one occasion, had struck a blow to the clerk of a Pleader, which incident had not been forgotten. His attitude towards the Muktear,. so far as one can gather from the evidence, was, in view of his antecedents, not very reassuring. The parties on this occasion did not, however, actually come to blows; there was abundance of mutual abuse and recrimination, and when the Sharistadar threatened to call in the office peon to put the Muktear out, the latter, in the words of the Munsif, 'marched out of his own accord.' In these circumstances, the Munsif, as also the District Judge, recommend that 'punishment of an exemplary character would be very salutary and very well deserved.'

3. On behalf of the Muktear, a preliminary objection has been taken to the validity of the reference on the ground that the Munsif was not competent to take action under Section 14, as the latter section is limited in its application to cases covered by Section 13, Clauses (a) and (6), In support of this view, reference has been made to the dictum of Hill. J., in the case of In the matter of Purna Chunder Pal 4 C.W.N. 389 : 27 C. 1023 : 14 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 671 In that case, Hill. J., relied upon the judgment of Lord Hannen in In the matter of Southekal Krishna Rao 14 I.A. 154 : 15 C. 152 : 12 Ind. Jur. 11 : 5 Sar. P.C.J. 96 : 7 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 685, where Section 14 was read by the Judicial Committee along with Section 13, and it was ruled that the expression charged with any such misconduct' in Section 14 referred back to the preceding section and was consequently limited to 'misconduct in the discharge of professional duty.' Hill, J., however, overlooked that Section 13 had been amended after the decision of the Judicial Committee, and that, whereas in 1883 (the date of the order under review by the Judicial Committee), Section 13 comprised a paragraph which corresponds to what is now included in Clauses (a) and (b), before 1899 (the date of the order under review by Hill, J.), that is by Section 2 of Act XI of 1896, a new and extended Section 13, which comprises Clauses (c), (d) and (e) not included in the original Section l3, had been introduced by the Legislature into the Legal Practitioners Act, in super session of the section in its primary form. Consequently, the question now before us, namely, whether the expression such misconduct as aforesaid' in Section 14 is restricted to ' fraudulent or grossly improper conduct in the discharge of his professional duty', or is comprehensive enough to cover all cases of misconduct, whether they be included in Clause (b) or in one or more of the other Clauses (c), (d), (e) and (f), never arose before the Judicial Committee. On the othpr hand, the judgment of the Full Bench in In the matter of Syed Wajid Wajid Hassain 6 C.W.N. 556 : 29 C. 890 shows that conduct comprised in the clauses other than Clauses (a) and (6) may also be properly described as misconduct; indeed it was suggested by Rampini and Gupta, JJ., in the order of reference that the expression 'any other reasonable cause' in Section 13(f) may be paraphrased as misconduct other than the professional misconduct specified in the preceding clauses.' We are of opinion that the question cannot be treated as concluded either by the observation of Lord Hannen in In the matter of Southekal Krishna Rao 14 I.A. 154 : 15 C. 152 : 12 Ind. Jur. 11 : 5 Sar. P.C.J. 96 : 7 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 685, or by the dictum of Hill, J., in In the matter of Puma Chunder Pal 4 C.W.N. 389 : 27 C. 1023 : 14 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 671. We also find that the dictum of Hill, J., has been doubted in In the matter of Kali Prasanna Chowdhury 5 Ind. Cas. 727 : 11 C.L.J. 164 : 11 Cr. L.J. 214 and In the matter of the Second Grade Pleaders 6 Ind. Cas. 813 : 84 M. 29 : (1910) M.W.N. 163 : 8 M.L.T. 22 : 20 M.L.J. 500 : 11 Cr. L.J. 310. We further find that Sir George Knox, J., dissented from the view of Hill, J., in the case of In the matter of the petition of Muhammad Abdul Hai 29 A. 61 : A.W.N. (1906) 268 : 4 Cr. L.J. 401 : 3 A.L.J. 811 and held that the words 'any such misconduct as aforesaid', as used in Section 14, relate to all the cases set out in Section 13, in other words, a subordinate Court is competent to enquire into a matter falling within the purview of any of the clauses of Section 13, when the Pleader or Muktear whose conduct is called in question practises in such Court. This view is not opposed to the decision in In the matter of Badha Charan Chakravarti 4 C.L.J. 229 : 10 C.W.K. 1059 : 4 Cr. L.J. 160 where, although the dictum of Hill, J., was quoted, the only question for determination was the competency of one subordinate Court to investigate a charge of misconduct committed in another subordinate Court, specially during the pendency of proceedings under Section 14 in the latter Court; a careful scrutiny of the judgment shows that it does not deal with the question in controversy before us. Nor can the decision in In the matter of the petition of Golab Khan 7 B.L.R. 179 : 16 W.R. 15 Cr., which turned upon the construction of Sections 15 and 16 of Act XX of 1865, be treated as binding authority on the question of the true scope of Sections 13 and 14 of Act XVIII of 1879 as amended by Act XI of 1896. That question was recently considered by a Full Bench of the Madras High Court in the case of District Judge of Kistna v Hanumanulu 82 Ind. Cas 326 : 18 M.L.T. 549 : (1915) M.W.N. 1050 : Cr. L.J.J. 38 : 39 M. 1045 and the construction was adopted that Section 14 covers all the clauses of Section 13, so that a subordinate Court is competent to take proceedings against a legal practitioner for misconduct alleged to come within Clause (f) of Section 13. We agree with Sir John Wallis, C.J., that there is no good-reason why charges under clauses other than Clauses (a) and (6) of Section 13 should not be investigated in the first instance by the subordinate Court and it would be very inconvenient if they could not. The introduction of Clauses (c)(d) and (e) into Section 13, without any amendment of Section 14, goes rather to show, as observed by Ghose, J., in In the matter of Purna Chunder Pal 4 C.W.N. 389 : 27 C. 1023 : 14 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 671, that Section 14, as it stood, was deemed wide enough to cover them. The Court would be slow to presume that the Legislature had overlooked the point and had through oversight left a lacuna which must lead to serious practical inconvenience. If the narrow construction indicated by Hill, J., be adopted, the result follows that while in cases of misconduct comprised in Clauses (a) and (6) of Section 13, the subordinate Court may forthwith institute an enquiry under Section 14, and may, if necessary, exercise, the power of suspension at the appropriate stage [In re Bajrangi Shahai 9 Ind. Cas. 225 : 15 C.W.N. 269 : 13 C.L.J. 457 : 12 Cr. L.J. 33], the subordinate Court may be helpless in cases of a much graver character, for instance, where a practitioner is guilty of extremely contumacious conduct in Court. Sections 13 and 14 were intended, in our opinion, to cover the same ground, in so far as the character of the misconduct is concerned If the misconduct is brought or comes to the notice of the High Court without the intervention of the subordinate Court, the High Court is competent to take' direct action under Section 13; if Section 14 had stood by itself, the result would have been that the High Court would be powerless to take disciplinary action, where the subordinate Court had, by reason of weakness, ignorance, or like cause, failed to take notice of the misconduct and to report the matter to the High Court under Section 14. A good illustration is afforded by the decision of the Full Bench in In the matter of an Advocate, a Vakil, a Pleader and a Muktear 4 C.L.J. 262, where the misconduct committed in the Court below and ignored by that Court was noticed by this Court in the course of the hearing of an appeal from original order. Section 14, on the other hand, invests the subordinate Court with authority to institute an enquiry, if, in its opinion, such misconduct has been committed as deserves investigation by that Court. From this point of view, the two sections supplement each other, but the cardinal fact remains that whether the enquiry is made by or under the orders of the High Court under Section 13 or is instituted by the subordinate Court of its own motion, the final order can be passed only by the High Court. In fact, Sections 12 to 15 show that the final determination in all these cases rests with the High Court and the High Court alone. We hold accordingly that the decisions in In the matter of the petition of Muhammad Abdul Hai 29 A. 61 : A.W.N. (1906) 268 : 4 Cr. L.J. 401 : 3 A.L.J. 811 and District Judge of Kistna v. Hanumanulu 82 Ind. Cas 326 : 18 M.L.T. 549 : (1915) M.W.N. 1050 : Cr. L.J.J. 38 : 39 M. 1045 take a correct view of the intention of the Legislature and that Section 14 covers cases of misconduct under all the clauses of Section 13. In this view, the objection that the Munsif had no jurisdiction to take proceedings against the practitioner in respect of misconduct alleged to come within Clause (f) of Section 13 must be overruled. We desire to add, however, that even if we had felt constrained to adopt the restricted view taken by Hill, J., the Muktear would not have been benefited in the least degree. It cannot be disputed that this Court is competent to take action under Section 13, Clause (f), after such enquiry as it thinks fit. The section does not require that the enquiry should be conducted directly by the High Court, the enquiry may well be made by a subordinate Court under the direction of the High Court. The only essential is, as pointed out by the Full Bench in In re Ganapathy Sastry 3 Ind. Cas. 344 : 19 M.L.J. 504 : 6 M.L.T. 253 : 11 Cr. L.J. 274, that notice must be given to the legal practitioner concerned to show cause against suspension or dismissal, and the notice must formulate the charges with great particularity and precision, so as to enable the practitioner to know the charges he is called upon to meet. That condition has been amply fulfilled in this cape. There is, thus, no reacon, why the enquiry by the Munsif, though not conducted under the orders of this Court, should not be adopted for the purpose of a proceeding under Section 13, if we took the view that this Court could proseed only under Section 13 and not on a report by the subordinate Court under Section 14. We must consequently examine the case on the merits.

4. The misconduct imputed to the Muktear technically amounted to a contempt of Court. It is well settled that misconduct in the presence of the Court, which shows disrespect of its authority or which obstructs or has a tendency to interfere with the due administration of justice, is contempt. On this ground, disorderly conduct in the Court room is treated as contempt of Court. This principle is not limited to misconduct in the actual presence of the Judge; the Court is deemed present in every part of the place set apart for its use and for the use of its officers, jurors and witnesses, and therefore, misbehaviour in such places is misconduct in the presence of the Court. Sir Willian MacMahon, M.R., in French v. French (1824) 1 Hog. 138 observed that as a Tribunal administering laws, without authority to protect its proceedings from outrage or disturbance, presents to the mind the idea of an institution which must be impotent, dependent and freauently useless, the Court will exercise its jurisdiction for outrages committed or insults offered in the face of the Court; he then added that the same jurisdiction will be extended to all the departments and offices of the Court, a proposition which results directly from the cases mentioned [Rex. v. Carroll (1774)1 Wils. K.B. 75 : 95 E.R. 500, Roach v. Hall (1742) 2 Atk. 469 : Dick 794 : 26 E.R. 683 Anonymous (1754) 2 Ves. Sen. 520 : 28 E.R. 332. Ex parte Burrows (1803) 8 Ves Jun. 535 : 32 E.R. 462, Ex parte Jones (1806) 13 Ves. Jun. 237 : 33 E.R. 283]. The same principle was recognised in the decisions in In re Johnson (1887) 20 Q.B.D. 68 : 57 L.J.Q.B. 1 : 58 L.T. 160 : 36 W.R. 51 : 52 J.P. 230, Ex parte Wilton (1842) 1 D. (N.S.) 805, Kirby v. Webb (1887) 3 T.L.R 768, Charltan's case (1847) 2 My. & Cr. 316 : 6 L.J. Ch. 185 : 40 E.R 661. A similar doctrine has been adopted and repeatedly applied in cases of high authority in the Courts of the United States [Fisher v. McDanial (1901) 9 Wyo. 457 : 87 Am St. Rev. 97l, U.S. v. Corter (1829) 3 Crauch C.C. 423 : 25 Fed. Cas. 313, U.S. v. Emerson (1831) 4 Cranch C.C. 188 : 25 Fed. Cas. 1012, State v. Woodfin (1844) 5 Ired. (N.C.) 199 : 42 Am. Dec. 161.] No useful purpose would be served by a minute comparison of the facts of the different cases; what we are concerned with is the ascertainment of the general principle, and that principle is accurately formulated in the language used by Harlan, J, in delivering the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court in Ex parte Savin (1884) 131 U.S. 267 : 33 Law. Ed. 150: 'The Court, at least when in session, is present in every part of the place set apart for its own use and for the use of its officers, jurors and witnesses, and misbehaviour anywhere in such place is misbehaviour in the presence of the Court.' In the ease before us, there is no room for doubt that the practitioner misbehaved in the presence of the Court within the meaning of this rule; in fact, the abusive language used by him was heard by the presiding Judge himself, who was holding his Court in the room adjoining the office where the incident took place. In these circumstances, it is incontrovertible that this Court may take disciplinary action against the Muktear. No doubt the power of suspension or removal is distinct from the power to punish for contempt [Ex parte Robinson (1873) 18 Wallace 505 : 22 Law. Ed. 205 ], but a contempt may be of such a character as to warrant the exercise of the disciplinary powers of the Court. At the same time, we must not overlook that, as pointed out by Bowen, L.J., in Helmore v. Smith (1886) 35 Ch D. 449 at p. 455 : 56 L.J. Ch. 145 : 56 L.T. 72 : 35 W.R. 157, when the Court takes notice of a misconduct which consists in the obstruction of or an interference with one of its officers, the object of the discipline enforced is not so much to vindicate the dignity of the Court or the person of the officers, as to prevent undue interference with the administration of justice; from this point of view, the present case is not of much gravity; there was obviously no intentional disrespect towards the Court; the Muktear was rather moved by a sadden impulse. In view of these extenuating circumstances, and also of his long standing position in the profession, we are of opinion that it will be sufficient to warn him as a mark of our disapproval of his conduct. We direct accordingly that he be warned.


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