Ill-treatment of lawyers, the need to bring in a mechanism to redress the grievances of the lawyers and litigants – reg.

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*Mathews J. Nedumpara*
10.8.2023

Hon’ble Justice Shri Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya,
Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay,
Mumbai
Also, to,
Hon’ble Justice Shri D.Y. Chandrachud
Chief Justice of India
New Delhi

May it please your Lordships,

*Sub: Ill-treatment of lawyers, the need to bring in a mechanism to redress the grievances of the lawyers and litigants – reg.*

1. I have written a large number of letters to the Chief Justices of India and the Chief Justices of the High Court of Bombay, so too, even the excellencies the President of India, the Prime Ministers, Law Ministers, about the need to bring in some meaningful mechanism to redress the grievances of lawyers and litigants of ill-treatment and refusal of fair hearing to the lawyers and litigants. Despite very positive response and reassurances from many among them, nothing concrete has till date been put in place to bring an end to the ill-treatment, intimidation and brow beating on the part of many of the judges. What triggered the instant letter is the ill-treatment which a lawyer, maybe in his 40s, faced at the hands of Hon’ble Justice Shri G.S Patel.
2. I have nothing against Hon’ble Justice Shri G.S Patel, on the contrary, I have the highest of regard for him, for I consider him to be an extremely competent judge and in the initial years of his career as a judge, had performed exceedingly well. Justice Patel is known for his ability to grasp quickly and his diction and command over the language. Before his elevation he used to contribute to Times of India regularly and I have read a large number of his articles with a great amount of appreciation. I have been a fan of his Lordship in more ways than one, and was very glad that he was elevated.
3. Power, it is said, is the greatest of intoxicants. I was shocked to see the change in his Lordships temperament and demeanor when I had occasion to appear before his Lordship after a gap, heading a division bench. What shocked me beyond words was when I had moved representing an old man, 75 years or so who has since expired, who was served with a notice of dispossession from his residential home. The pandemic had crippled him financially, his wife was suffering from cancer, his son was mentally handicapped. During the hearing of the case, the said client came to me to whisper something into my ears. Justice Patel, for no reason at all, lost all his cool. He thundered at the frail man, asking him to take five steps back and paused to watch the man literally take those five steps back. It was the most disturbing and demeaning thing to have witnessed, to see an elderly person forced to obey such a command. He died of a heart attack a few weeks later, the stress and mental agony of his case, no doubt contributed.
4. Whenever I have gone to his Lordship’s Court, I have been extremely pained and shocked to see my fellow lawyers being spoken to extremely rudely and humiliated without reason. On one occasion, I said so to his Lordship himself, in open court. The sentiment which I express in this letter about the intemperate an arrogant conduct of Justice Patel is the reflection of the feelings of the hapless lawyers.
5. To address a letter as the instant one, is an extremely painful duty. If at the age of 65, I don’t do it, I cannot blame anyone else for not standing up for what is right and acting against injustice. For a practicing lawyer, there cannot be a greater nightmare than to antagonize a judge. He has to appear very same judge whom he has been critical of, for the cause of his client. If the judge passes a negative order or is hostile, it affects his career. Everyone believes in the philosophy of Marcus Quintilianus, to praise the judge, win his favour. Today, unfortunately, sycophancy is an assured means of success in this profession.
6. I hesitated many times before, in addressing a letter as the instant one. To my mind, I have a good equation with Justice Patel, one of mutual respect. I have the greatest of regard, nay, even affection for him. And it certainly pains me to think that this letter may strain that relation. However, I feel that in the larger interest of the legal fraternity I must muster the courage do it.
7. In writing this letter, I acted upon the still voice from within. I consider that I have not been wrong in doing so. Even so, I apologies for the discomfort this letter may cause.
With most respectful regards,
Yours Sincerely,
MATHEWS J. NEDUMPARA

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