Flip-flop by Board, Kapil over title suit baffles SC

| | New Delhi

The flip-flop over Sunni Central Waqf Board's claim that it did not support the submission made by senior advocate Kapil Sibal in the Supreme Court for moving the Ayodhya title dispute suit to a date beyond July 2019 came under the judicial lens on Thursday.

Deprecating the falling practice among the bar where senior advocates resort to speaking without instructions from their client, a Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, "After the case gets over, one client contradicts his lawyer. How do we make out what is the submission of the party?"

 The Court's anguish seemed to stem out of the situation where the Court assumed that Sibal spoke for Sunni Waqf Board in Court with two other senior counsels appearing on the same side - Rajeev Dhavan and Dushyant Dave, supporting him. But, moments after the proceeding got over, the Board contradicted the argument by Sibal and others for hearing the matter after July 2019. The Board said it was in favour of an early resolution to the seven-decade old dispute.

Sitting in a Constitution Bench with four other judges, CJI remarked, "When a senior counsel is engaged, he is briefed on points to be argued by his advocate on record. There are occasions when we put questions to a senior counsel who politely refuses saying I am not briefed on this point."

The Court referred to two instances to call in question the conduct of senior lawyers, one being the Ayodhya title suit case where senior lawyers Dhavan and Dave shouted in the Court to seek an adjournment and when denied, agreed to leave the Court to the utter "shock and surprise" of the Bench.

A day later, on Wednesday, the Bench was faced with a similar situation while hearing the power tussle between Centre and AAP Government on determining the Constitutional limits of L-G over Delhi. Here again, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan contradicted arguments by another senior lawyer Indira Jaising, although both appeared for the Delhi Government.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who was privy to the proceedings of Wednesday, apologised to the Court claiming that he was agonised by the conduct of senior lawyers shouting down their rival counsels.

The Bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushan said, "Behaviour of senior counsels was atrocious yesterday (Delhi case) and a day before (Ayodhya suit) it was more atrocious. For the same client, two senior counsels argue differently contradicting each other." Reprimanding lawyers who shout to be heard, the Bench said, "Raising voice only shows the inadequacy of preparation and incompetence of a lawyer. They are not worth being called senior advocates."



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