Contempt notice against Kolhapur Bar Association, others by HC

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday issued criminal contempt notice against office-bearers of the Kolhapur Bar Association for taking out a mock funeral procession of retired Chief Justice Mohit Shah and abstaining from work to press their demand for a circuit bench there.

The HC also issued criminal contempt notice against office-bearers of the bar associations of Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Satara districts, besides Kolhapur, for going on strike.

The office-bearers and members of the Kolhapur Bar Association had on September 9 taken out a mock funeral procession of Justice Shah, who had retired as Bombay High Court Chief Justice on September 8. The lawyers had also gone on a one-day strike claiming that their demand seeking establishment of a circuit bench in Kolhapur was not fulfilled.

A division bench of justices A S Oka and V L Achliya on Wednesday said even assuming that the lawyers' demand for a circuit bench is legitimate, it still does not permit them to take law in their own hands.

"Prima facie their conduct of taking out a mock funeral procession of retired Chief Justice Mohit Shah aggravates contempt and gross misconduct. It appears to us that the conduct of the office bearers of those bar associations in calling upon its members to abstain from work amounts to misconduct," the court said.

"Apart from lowering the dignity of the judicial system, the real victims are the poor litigants who had to suffer as lawyers abstained from work," the court said. Besides the members of the Kolhapur Bar Association, lawyers in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Satara districts had also gone on a strike.

"We issue criminal contempt notice against all office bearers of the bar associations of Kolhapur, Sindhudurg district, Ratnagiri and Satara districts. We direct the principal judges of the courts from these districts to issue the notice after ascertaining their names and other details," the court ordered.

The bench also asked the Maharashtra and Goa Bar Council to look into the matter and take appropriate action. It posted the matter for further hearing on October 9.

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