Paralyzed Judicial Work: Allahabad HC Initiates Contempt Proceedings Against Kanpur Bar Association's Office Bearers Over Strike
A seven-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court has initiated contempt proceedings against the office bearers of the Kanpur Bar Association and Kanpur Lawyers' Association for going on an indefinite strike in the district court and "paralyzing judicial work."
The Bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker, Justice Sunita Agarwal, Justice Surya Prakash Kesarwani, Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta, Justice Anjani Kumar Mishra, Justice Kaushal Jayendra Thaker, and Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi observed, "You, by your conduct, have willfully and deliberately committed the contempt of court by interfering in the administration of justice calling illegal strike since March 16, 2023 and thereby paralysing the judicial work at the District Judgeship at Kanpur Nagar."
Advocate General Ashok Kumar Tiwari appeared for the Respondent while none appeared for the Petitioner before the High Court.
In an order dated April 7, the Bench asked the President of the Kanpur Bar Association, Naresh Chandra Tripathi why the strike has not been called off, the President apprised the Court that the strike was called by him but by the general body of the Association. The Bench thereafter had put certain questions to the President regarding his conduct and the conduct of the lawyers on strike, the latter showed his willingness to go to jail.
In this context, the Bench further observed, "When certain further questions were put to the President regarding his conduct and the conduct of the lawyers on strike, he submits that he is willing to go to jail. The views expressed by the President, Kanpur Bar Association, have been duly endorsed and supported by the other office bearers present in the Court along with the President, Kanpur Bar Association."
Furthermore, the Chairman of the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh was also present in the Court and pleaded that he is not supporting the call of strike by the Kanpur Bar Association and that appropriate disciplinary proceedings would be initiated against those who are actively involved in the strike.
The Court also noted that despite the notices being served upon the office bearers and others on April 6 by the Court to resume the judicial work forthwith and to purge the contempt, no general meeting of the office bearers of both Associations was called.
Thus, the Bench observed, "...upon the direction issued by this Court on 6.4.2023 that all the lawyers of the district judgeship at Kanpur Nagar would resume their judicial work forthwith, as per report of the District Judge dated 6.4.2023, a hand written notice dated 6.4.2023 under the signatures of General Secretary, Kanpur Bar Association and the Lawyers’ Association, Kanpur Nagar has been affixed on the notice board wherein the resolution dated 25.3.2023 of the Kanpur Bar Association and the Lawyers’ Association, Kanpur Nagar to continue with strike and abstain from the judicial work has been reiterated. In addition to this a warning has also been given to the Advocates in the aforesaid notice dated .4.2023 that they would not perform any judicial work, administrative work or registration of cases and in case, any lawyer is found to be working as against the decision of the general body, his membership from the Kanpur Bar Association and the Lawyers’ Association, Kanpur Nagar would be terminated and a recovery of Rs.5,000/- as penalty would be made from such lawyers."
The Bench also took note of the video recording of the strike, as made available by the District Judge, showing that the agitating lawyers indulged in slogan shouting, using abusive and derogatory language against the entire district judiciary, including the District Judge.
The Court thus held that the noticees and the other office bearers present in the Court are in deliberate and wilful contempt of the Court by interfering in the administration of justice, calling illegal strike since March 16 and thereby paralyzing the judicial work in the district judgeship at Kanpur Nagar and held -
"In view of the above, we find that the aforesaid noticees and the other office bearers, present in the Court today, prima facie, are in deliberate and wilful contempt of this Court by interfering in the administration of justice, calling illegal strike since 16.3.2023 and thereby paralysing the judicial work in the district judgeship at Kanpur Nagar and they have made themselves liable to face contempt proceedings."
On April 6, the seven-judge bench issued notices to the office-bearers of both the bar associations. Kanpur Bar Association and the Lawyers' Association, Kanpur Nagar were on a continuous strike, and initially, they were only boycotting the Court of District & Sessions Judge but later, they started boycotting the entire Courts of Kanpur Judgeship on March 25, 2023, hampering the entire judicial work. On the administrative side, the Chief Justice and the Administrative Judges of Kanpur held meetings separately as well as jointly with the President and the General Secretary of the Kanpur Bar Association and tried to resolve the issue.
In turn, the President and the General Secretary of the Kanpur Bar Association gave assurance to call off the strike and resume work, but then also the lawyers deviated from their assurance and were then threatening to spread the strike in the whole district of Kanpur in different modes.
Cause Title - In Re v. Zila Adhivakta Sangh Allahabad