The Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justices RF Nariman and Hrishikesh Roy adviced high court Judges to "avoid unnecessary remarks on the conduct of the counsel which may have no bearing on the adjudication of the dispute before the Court."
The remark came in the matter of Neeraj Garg v. Sarita Rani & Ors. wherein the appellant lawyer had filed an SLP seeking to expunge remarks made against him by a Judge of the High Court of Uttarakhand. The High Court Judge had made remarks against the conduct of the lawyer in four different cases.
Impugned comments were regarding the alleged conduct of the appellant in 'suppressing material fact', 'intentionally attempting to make a mountain of a mole', 'submitting voluminous records with the petitions' etc..
While ordering expunction or remarks, the Bench observed, "While it is of fundamental importance in the realm of administration of justice to allow the judges to discharge their functions freely and fearlessly and without interference by anyone, it is equally important for the judges to be exercising restraint and avoid unnecessary remarks on the conduct of the counsel which may have no bearing on the adjudication of the dispute before the Court."
The Bench noted that the remarks could have been avoided and it was based on a personal perception, "Having perused the offending comments recorded in the High Court judgments, we feel that those could have been avoided as they were unnecessary for deciding the disputes. Moreover, they appear to be based on the personal perception of the learned Judge."
The Bench also noted that the Judge did not give any opportunity to the appellant to put forth his explanation.
"It is also apparent that the learned Judge did not, before recording the adverse comments, give any opportunity to the Appellant to put forth his explanation. The remarks so recorded have cast aspersion on the professional integrity of the appellant. Such condemnation of the Counsel, without giving him an opportunity of being heard would be a negation of the principles of audi alteram partem. The requisite degree of restraint and sobriety expected in such situations is also found to be missing in the offending comments.", the Bench noted.
The bench also observed that, "The tenor of the remarks recorded against the appellant will not only demean him amongst his professional colleagues but may also adversely impact his professional career. If the comments remain unexpunged in the court judgments, it will be a cross that the Appellant will have to bear, all his life. To allow him to suffer thus, would in our view be prejudicial and unjust."
Mr. Amar Dave had been appointed amicus curiae to assist the Court in the matter.
On behalf of the appellant, Senior Counsel Mukul Rohtagi had submitted that by virtue of the remarks recorded against the appellant, his hard earned reputation has been tarnished.
Rohtagi had submitted that as a member of the same Bar as the appellant, the Judge and the appellant were rival counsel in several contested matters and that the comments may have emanated from personal prejudice.
The Supreme Court disposed of the appeal ordering expunction of the impugned remarks.