SC Witnessed Dramatic Exchanges as Lucknow Advocate Appeals for Forgiveness and Removal of Costs in Frivolous PIL Case

SC Witnessed Dramatic Exchanges as Lucknow Advocate Appeals for Forgiveness and Removal of Costs in Frivolous PIL Case

Today in the Supreme Court, dramatic exchanges unfolded as a Lucknow-based advocate appealed to two different benches for forgiveness and the removal of costs imposed on him for filing a frivolous Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

A bench comprising Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Augustine G Masih pulled up Lucknow-based advocate Ashok Pandey for failing to pay a ₹50,000 penalty imposed on him. The penalty had been imposed last year after the Supreme Court rejected the lawyer's petition challenging the appointment of Supreme Court advocates as High Court judges.

The bench noted that the lawyer travelled abroad soon after the court imposed the cost. "Now you cannot say that you can't pay cost of ₹ 50,000," the bench said, noting that he is a "practising lawyer".

To this, Mr Pandey said he has not got a single case since last year and that his trip was "sponsored by my kids".

"You pay the cost in a week else we will issue a contempt (notice). Are you willing to pay in 2 weeks or not? You are the member of the bar, we request you to answer it clearly," the bench said.

The lawyer responded, stating, "My children are affluent, but I am financially constrained." He recounted his past support for former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, mentioning, "I filed numerous petitions in support of CJI Dipak Misra during times of severe allegations against him. While others did not support him, I stood by him. I have appealed to both the CJI and the President of India for payment in those cases. The CJI has referred my request to the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC) for processing, and I assure the court that I will settle the amount, Your Lordship."

Justice Oka extended the lawyer's deadline to August 5 and cautioned that a contempt notice would be issued if the payment is not received by that date.

The lawyer faced scrutiny from another bench, consisting of Justice BR Gavai and Justice KV Viswanathan, for failing to pay a ₹1 lakh penalty imposed on him in a separate case. This penalty stemmed from a PIL filed last year by Mr. Pandey challenging the reinstatement of Lok Sabha membership for NCP's Mohd Faizal Padippura, a matter the court criticized as frivolous. Previously, Mr. Pandey had contested the oath-taking of the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, arguing that the Chief Justice omitted saying "I" during the oath. He also challenged the restoration of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's Lok Sabha membership, resulting in another fine.

Justice Gavai asked the lawyer, "How many courts have imposed cost on you?" He replied, "Please recall the cost. I don't have money." The bench rejected the plea, but the lawyer persisted. "If you don't leave the court, we will have to embarrass ourselves," Justice Gavai said.

The lawyer stayed put and said, "I am requesting with folded hands. This is no contempt, Sir... Please remove cost from this case." He then addressed Justice Gavai and said, "You are also going to be next CJI." The judge responded, "God knows", and added, "Are you leaving or not? We have to call the security personnel."

Furthermore, Mr. Pandey approached Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and lodged a complaint against Justice Gavai, alleging that the senior judge had threatened to revoke his "sanad," or licence to practice law. Chief Justice Chandrachud acknowledged that heated arguments can occur but cautioned the lawyer against making such accusations.

"You cannot make allegations like this on the judges of the bench. They never misbehave with lawyers. If you want to challenge the fines, file a review," he said.  

The Top Court has pulled up petitioners and lawyers over frivolous PILs, with Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud saying that the public is paying for precious judicial time. 


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