Former Attorney General of India and senior advocate K.K. Advocates Kapil Sibal and Neeraj Kishan Kaul at the SCBA Annual General Body Meeting on March 16.
In his letter, Venugopal explained how the apology given by the two senior lawyers, po verbal spat in the Supreme Court between Vikas Singh and CJI DY Chandrachud for stating a question, they were to “maintain cordial relations between the bar and the bench”. The three-time president also explained how passing the proposed resolutions could create “factions in the bar” and permanently damage “peaceful relations” among its members.
What provoked the SCBA president?
The case at the center of this controversy is ‘SCBA vs Ministry of Urban Development’, which will be heard by a Special Bench of the Supreme Court headed by CJI Chandrachud on March 17.
The appeal filed by the SCBA has sought to convert 1.33 acres of Supreme Court land allotted by the Center into a chamber block for lawyers. Through this petition, SCBA sought more space for the Bar Chambers due to factors such as the increasing number of lawyers in the profession and the limited accommodation capacity of the existing premises.
Therefore, the plea sought to declare the entire area around the court premises as part of the “Supreme Court Complex”, including all the buildings on Bhagwan Das Road, the Indian Law Institute and the Indian Society of International Law. On January 18 and September 13, 2022, SCBA president also wrote to CJI Chandrachud and former CJI UU Lalit, respectively, seeking urgent hearing of this plea.
On March 2, Singh mentioned the plea and sought an urgent listing of the same in the Supreme Court, but to no avail. Singh’s repeated insistence culminated in a remark where he said he would have to go to the CJI’s residence to hear his question.
What was the CJI’s response?
“Mr Singh, I am the Chief Justice of India. I have been on the bench for a long time. I have never allowed myself to be beaten by members of the Bar and will not allow that to happen in the last two years of my tenure. You will be treated as an ordinary litigant. Please don’t force my hand to do something you don’t want to do,” replied SPI.
Singh said the matter had been brought up six times but was yet to be considered and pointed out that he too had brought it up three times. Indicating that the Bar was prepared even for physical protests, the senior counsel said he did not want to take him to the judge’s residence.
Responding sternly, the CJI asked Singh, “Is that the way to behave?” I will not be disguised like this. Sit down.” As Singh argued further, CJI Chandrachud told him, “Please don’t raise your voice. This is not the way to behave as president of SCBA. You are asking for land allotted to SC to be given to the Bar. I have taken my decision.” Ultimately, the bench decided to list the matter for hearing on March 17, asserting that it would not be the board’s first point.
What did Kapil Sibal and Kaul say?
A short time later, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and NK Kaul, who represented the rival parties in the petitions arising out of the political crisis in Maharashtra, apologized to the CJI for what happened.
Sibal said he was of the view that the Bar should not transgress the bounds of decency. Meanwhile, Kaul said, “We feel equally disturbed by what happened and hurt.” The SPI thanked them before continuing the hearing.
On March 6, the SCBA Executive Committee, in a meeting, decided that the two resolutions against the senior lawyers would be taken up for consideration before the Special General Body on March 15.
What resolutions did the SCBA propose for the special GBM to debate/vote on?
After the apology, around 235 lawyers wrote to the SCBA, proposing a resolution to issue show cause notices to Kaul and Sibal, seeking an explanation for seeking an apology from the CJI without consulting anyone on the SCBA Executive Committee or knowing the issue, Live Law reported .
Similarly, 184 lawyers proposed a resolution before the SCBA expressing their solidarity with the SCBA President for making efforts to build their chambers.
How is the bar divided on this issue?
On March 12, 470 lawyers, including 53 senior advocates, signed a letter supporting Kaul and Sibal, asking the SCBA to withdraw its proposed resolutions against some of the “most respected senior members” of the Bar, adding that such a move was against of the basic values that SCBA and Bar have.
The letter signed by senior advocates like Fali Nariman, Mukul Rohatgi, Rebecca John and Rajshekhar Rao read, “We strongly believe that Mr. Sibal and Mr. Kaul have not said anything against the interests of the Bar. Their emphasis was that the decorum of the court must be maintained and their statements were not at all in the context of the merits of the case.
The letter also states that the SCBA should be a protector of the rule of law and the rights enjoyed by lawyers, not a violator of the same.
On a similar note, former AG Venugopal’s letter also spoke about the differences emerging between the bar and urged the SCBA president to reject the resolutions so that “the event does not explode into a situation where there may be two camps with enmity between the members.” “