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SC confirms jail to advocate

J. Venkatesan

He cheated firm which retained him

New Delhi: It is betrayal of faith by a lawyer to his client in a case of professional engagement, the Supreme Court has said confirming a six-month simple imprisonment awarded by the Karnataka High Court to B.N. Shivanna, who cheated a company to the tune of Rs. 72 lakh.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan said his conduct was reprehensible and tantamount to fence eating crop. “It is evident from the evidence on record that the appellant had been the beneficiary of fraud alleged in these cases. Such misconduct has to be dealt with, with a heavy hand.”

The High Court had convicted and sentenced Mr. Shivanna for criminal contempt of court.

Before joining the Bar, he had been working in a company as marketing executive and hence after he became advocate, the firm made him retainer. The allegation against Mr. Shivanna was that he told the company that more than 500 criminal cases had been filed by various persons against the company and its officials, and accordingly collected Rs. 62 lakh for dealing with the cases and another Rs. 10 lakh, apart from professional charges.

After the company brought to the High Court Registrar-General's notice the fraud committed by Mr. Shivanna, the High Court initiated suo motu contempt proceedings and convicted him. His appeal was directed against this judgment.

Writing the judgment, Justice Chauhan said the appellant “had been an employee of the company and because of that relationship he had been retained as an advocate and he has a duty towards his clients to behave in an appropriate manner and to protect the dignity of the court. He is guilty of contempt of court.”

On his contention that the proceedings were not maintainable, the Bench said: “The proceedings must be held maintainable in view of the fact that the issue involved in the proceedings had far-reaching ramifications and impact on the administration of justice and on the justice delivery system and the credibility of the court in the eyes of the general public.”

Considering the gravity of the charges no lenient view was permissible, the Bench said and asked the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bangalore, to immediately take the appellant into custody and send him to jail to serve the remaining part of the sentence.

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