January 8, 2007
Lawyers’ Chambers – Photostat Shops ?*
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – A lawyer sought to be evicted from a Supreme Court Chamber he has used for 24 years has turned to a lower court for justice.
In the process, S K Bandyopadhyay, a senior government counsel, may be stepping on the toes of 34 occupants he says are in violation of rules.
The land’s highest court is said by lawyers who practise there to have limited facilities for advocates– let alone amenities for litigants.
”We are awfully short of space for both advocates and the litigant public,” says Ravi Mohan, an advocate who also shares space with an allottee.
He says there is a crying need for more chambers for lawyers and at least a common room where visitors can wait their turn, buy a cup of tea or escape adverse weather.
A recent Delhi High Court order took note of Bandyopadhyay’s petition that allottees ”are violating Rules” by ”subletting” or ”commercially installing photostat machines” in chambers.
Justice Anil Kumar also noted how an allottee ”is in Canada for the last five years” and ”not practi(s)ing” or another one ”never comes to the Supreme Court for a single filing (or) appearance.”
Three weeks ago, Bandyopadhyay complained to police against the Supreme Court’s Registrar, the caretaker and the Deputy Registrar ”for illegal sealing of my Chamber No 28.”
The petitioner says he has shared the chamber with allottee Advocate P K Mukerjee since 1982, paying rent and other charges.
The premises were sealed within hours of the Supreme Court rising for winter vacation on December 16.
Bandyopadhyay says his computer unit, furniture, telephone, books, journals and more than 150 files and records of pending cases are all in the chamber, which has rendered him unable to work.
He has invoked his right to information for rules under which his application five years ago for chamber space was considered– and denied late last year.
Six years ago, Mukerjee, then about 80, informed the Registrar that on account of age he had ”reduced my work (of) filing and appearance” while ”my other occupant (Bandyopadhyay)… fulfils the criteria.”
In December 2002, Assistant Registrar V K Nigam wrote to Bandyopadhyay that he was directed by India’s Chief Justice to obtain a letter of consent from Mukerjee ”before your request for joint allotment with him may be considered.”
In October 2005, Mukerjee wrote to the Deputy Registrar that he had ”no objection” to the Chamber being allotted to Bandyopadhyay if he cleared arrears due against the allottee.
Here are some prevalent violations listed by the petitioner:
— 20 occupants have been subletting or commercially installing Photostat machines in chambers;
— Occupant residing at Canada for the last five years, without practice in India;
— Occupant never comes to Supreme Court for filing or appearance;
— Occupant residing out-station not practising for last 20 years;
— Occupant is a housewife not engaged in legal profession;
— Occupant not opened chamber once in last 20 years;
— Occupant given co-allottee status with his father after a year in practice.
UNI MJ PK ND1120