A Bench of Justices SS Shinde and Abhay Ahuja said that lawyers should repose their faith in judges and should refrain from writing articles on cases in which they appear as counsel.
What irked the Bench was an article written by Mumbai lawyer Payoshi Roy in The Indian Express critiquing the judges for their stand in the case relating to bail plea of Octogenarian priest Stan Swamy who is presently in jail as an accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.
The Bench implied that the author is appearing as counsel for an accused in Bhima Koregaon case.
The issue came up for hearing when advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry was arguing a plea by Bhima Koregaon accused Hany Babu’s wife Jenny Roweena, seeking her husband’s release.
“If you or your associate feel that by writing articles criticising us when you are appearing in the matter, you can get us to hear you, it is not right. It is a way to pressurise the Court. We will pass an order only after hearing the matter on merits. There were UAPA charge involved,” Justice Shinde told Chaudhry.
Chaudhry denied having written any article on any case he was appearing in while clarifying that that he did not represent Swamy.
Having said so, he argued that the Bench could not bar lawyers from expressing their opinion against the court, merely because they appeared before the same Court.
It was his right to appear before the Court and it was his right to free speech which permitted him to criticise the judiciary, he argued.
“Is your Lordship saying court cannot be criticised, or that I can”t write? I will continue writing, and coming to court for relief. Both are my rights,” Chaudhry said.
Justice Shinde said that the article seemed to indicate that the lawyers had lost faith in the judicial system.
“You are an officer of the court. Unless you have faith in us, how will you assist us? If you are arguing before us and do not have faith in us, what is the use?” Justice Shinde said.
He further opined that fair criticism is necessary and he would be the last to say that there should be restriction on freedom of expression.
“What we are saying is, we need your faith in the system and in us,” Justice Shinde said.
“It is because we have faith that we come to court. But sometimes, the court lets us down,” Chaudhry responded.