In a rare instance, the Supreme Court on Friday will hear a petition filed by Manikandan Chettiar, an advocate from Chennai, against the life ban imposed on him by the Bar Council of India.
Chettiar is the first advocate in independent India to be served such a harsh punishment and the third person in the 395 years in Indian judicial history to face such ignominy. Mahatma Gandhi was served with life ban against practising as advocate by the British in 1922 and freedom fighter Shyamaji Krishna Varma was the second person to be banned from law practice in 1909. The first two decisions of life ban were imposed by London’s Inner Temple, the then regulator of the Bar.
“Ironically, both the Mahatma and Shyamaji were reinstated by the Inner Temple posthumously in 1988 and 2015 respectively, 66 years and 106 years, after their being banned.
The appellant on the other hand, is challenging the double life ban imposed upon him because Republic India’s Constitutional Law-Courts and its Bar Councils have both suo motu imposed the double life-ban on the petitioner since February 2, 2018 and interim indefinite ban since September 2015 without being able to frame a single charge, whatsoever,” said Manikandan Chettiar in his petition filed in the SC challenging the decision of the BCI.
He is represented by noted lawyer Colin Gonsalves. The case is listed before a Bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta.
In Chennai legal circles, Manikandan (45) is known as an activist lawyer, who picked up fights with police and on some judicial corruption related issues.
He filed several cases seeking probes in cases of alleged corruption in judiciary. In the controversial Sankararaman murder case in 2011, he produced an audio tape as purported evidence of money transfer to a trial court judge. In this case, as per Manikandan’s petition in the apex court, the current Madras HC Judge PN Prakash was the lead lawyer of the accused persons, including late Kanchi Shankaracharya.
While all accused were acquitted in the case, Manikandan continued with his demand for probe into the audio tape scandal.
In 2013, advocate Prakash was elevated as a judge in the Madras High Court. Two years later, he took over the case related to judicial bribing from trial court and directed the Tamil Nadu Bar Council to initiate stringent action against Manikandan, though his junior was the actual petitioner.
According to Manikandan’s petition, without hearing him, in 2015 the State Bar Council suspended him from practicing, and in February 2018, Bar Council of India imposed a life ban on him.
In his 206-page petition, the advocate details his fights against corruptions in police, bureaucracy and judiciary and claimed he was punished by the BCI for this very reason. “Thus it is crystal clear that in order to protect the criminals and lawyers involved in the illegal framing of Puducherry’s Chief Judge Ramaswamy and also to protect the murder case approver from being committed to trial in the 2004 Sankararaman murder case and to thwart an appeal against the acquittals, their erstwhile counsel PN Prakash (now judge of the High Court of Madras) has been consistently misusing his judicial office in league with others, and had the appellant ex-communicated from India’s law courts without any allegations, and without any due process by means of an unjust disciplinary proceeding judgment,” said Manikandan in his petition against Bar Council of India for imposing life ban on his career.