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Suo Motu Cognizance Taken By The patna High Court In The Case Of An Advocate Attempting To Sexually Assault a Law Student In His Office

Kavya Sharma ,
  17 January 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
High court of judicature at patna
Brief :

Citation :
Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.345 of 2023

CAUSE TITLE:

Court on its own motion on the basis of resolution/complaint passed by Coordination Committee vs The State of Bihar 

DATE OF ORDER: 10th January 2023

JUDGE(S):  HONOURABLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE

                   HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE PARTHA SARTHY

PARTIES: Petitioner:- Adv. Niranjan Kumar

                    Respondent:- 

Mr. Sunil Kumar Mandal, SC 3 

Mr. Y.C.Verma, Sr. Advocate 

Mr. Shri Ajay Kumar Thakur, Advocate 

Mr. Sanjay Singh, Sr. Advocate, 

Mr. Ramakant Sharma, Sr. Advocate 

Smt. Nivedita Nirvikar, learned Senior Advocate, 

Mr. Shailendra Kumar Singh, Advocate 

Mr. Mukesh Kant, Advocate

SUBJECT 

The Hon’ble High Court of Patna (hereinafter referred to as ‘High Court’ or ‘the Court’), has to give the order on the upcoming date of 19th January 2023. The decision of the bench will be based upon the interim report (hereinafter referred as “the report”) presented by the Coordination Committee of Three Association (hereinafter referred as “the committee”) established by the State Bar Council subjected to the General Body of council’s concurrence. The allegation of misconduct is against Adv. Niranjan Kumar (hereinafter referred as “the accused advocate” or “the accused”)

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

Indian Constitution 1949 

  • Article 226 – defines the power of High Court to entertain any writ petition filed. A PIL can be filed under this article before the High Court.
  • Advocate Act 1961 
  • Section 9 – formation of committee by the State Bar Council. A Bar Council shall include one or more Disciplinary Committees in accordance with this Section. Every formed committee must have three members, among whom two must be chosen by the Council from its members and the third must be chosen by the Council from the advocates who meet the requirements outlined in the outline of Subsection (2) of Section 3 but who do not belong to Council members. The senior-most advocate on the Disciplinary Committee would then become the Chairman.
  • Section 35 - This outlines the sanctions for advocacy misconduct. It says that when a complaint is received or when a State Bar Council has cause to suspect that any advocate listed on its register has engaged in professional or any other misconduct, it must send the matter to its Disciplinary Committee for adjudication. The State Bar Council's Disciplinary Committee would then set a hearing date and arrange for notice of it to be delivered to both the involved attorney and the state's attorney general.

Indian Penal Code 

  • Section 354 - Any male who assaults a woman or uses unlawful force against her with the intent to violate her dignity or with knowledge that he is inclined to do so will be made punishable, a fine, or both.

BRIEF FACTS:

  • The accused was alleged of sexually harassing the female intern of 21 year old form Chanakya National Law University (CNLU) in Patna on the last day of the internship that was 23rd December 2022.
  • The intern was asked for sexual favours as a payoff upon which she called out the police control room and the accused was taken into custody. 
  • Further an FIR was filed under section 354 IPC for sexual harassment along with attempt to rape.
  • The accused was granted bail on December 24th 2022 after his arrest the day before. 
  • Therefore a resolution was passed by the committee forbidding the accused advocate from practicing in the court from now onwards. 
  • A complaint was passed by the committee alleging Adv. Niranjan Kumar that he had misconduct of practicing in the court
  • Petitioner was found roaming around in the court premises and same was observed in the past also. 
  • Therefore this complaint should be presented as a PIL before the High Court of Patna  
  • It was informed by the respondents that the similar complaint against same advocate is still pending in the registry. 
  • The petition was registered and was presented before the court.
  • The sealed cover containing the registry's previous investigation report was unsealed, read through, and given to the Registrar General of this Court with instructions to be resealed.
  • Based on the report of the committee a notice was served to the alleged advocate for his next appearance. 

ISSUE RAISED 

  • Whether the interim report submitted by the Coordination Committee of Three Association makes the only ground for final order.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCE BY THE PETITONER

  • Adv. Niranjan Kumar has been alleged for the misconduct of sexually harassing the female intern. The council from the accused side needs to present their argument on 19th January 2023. 
  • The council has asked the accused advocate to personally appear and elaborate as to why his licence should not be cancelled. 

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  • The committee adopted the resolution on 9th January 2023 which was passed on 3rd January 2023. The resolution requests the Hon’ble High Court to take the case as Suo Moto and relevant effective investigation should be carried out by the authorities to provide satisfactory security to the victim, (herein the intern) and everything should remain uninfluenced by any internal or external force. 
  • Along with the investigation order, the court shall bar the practicing of the accused advocate and suspend the licence till the final order has been passed. This would be in the best interest of the working environment of the Court and maintain the trust on the Judiciary. 
  • The resolution by the committee further requested that the case should be referred to the “Sexual Harassment at Workplace Committee” for quick and efficient concluding of the matter.
  • The committee stated that till the suit is pending before the Court the entry of the accused advocate should be restricted in any form. 
  • The lady council of the Court argued that the act committed the said advocate, Adv Niranjan Kumar is immensely shameful and disrespectful not only towards the victim but also to the legal profession where we are expanding gender equality sector. 
  • Furthermore the committee intents to push the matter in Judicial side as the accused was granted bail by the magistrate which was unprecedented approach.  

JUDGMENT 

  • The court perused the interim analysis provided by the fact-finding committee that the Bihar State Bar Council established in a statement dated 26.12.2022. The Court master of this Court is to keep the same document in a sealed cover.
  • At this point, Shri Ramakant Sharma declares that he will make a decision regarding the interim document submitted by the Three Members Committee established by the State Bar Council during the course of the day itself.  Furthermore, the decision will be dependent on the approval by the General Body of the Council.
  • All concerned knowledgeable counsel must get a copy of the order that has been validated from the court master. Along with this the appearance needs to categorise before the mentioned time period in the order. 
  • Depending on a motion adopted by the coordination committee of three High Court bar associations, Patna High Court lady attorney, the High Court Bar Association, and the Lawyers' Association—a bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Partha Sarthy invoked Suo Motu cognizance. The accused advocate is suspended by the Bar Council of India. 

CONCLUSION 

The final order will be based upon the interim report of the committee. The Judiciary needs to acknowledge the facts and circumstance that this was a major blow to the legal sector and very shameful act. Granting of bail by the magistrate should be considered as the major factor in denial of justice to the victim as the advocates act was not taken seriously by the magistrate. The committee’s report has mentioned the entire allegation and their agenda of boycotting the accused advocate. Now the argument advance form the accused side for considering the final judgment. However, it is strongly believed form my side that the advocates misconduct should not be neglected by the judiciary and he should be given appropriate punishment for his act

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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