The Supreme Court Wednesday lamented an unsavoury spat between two veteran lawyers, and said that if the apex court could witness such acrimony, imagine the plight of the lower judiciary.
“If two senior advocates fight like this in the Supreme Court, I wonder what would be the plight in the lower courts,” remarked a three-judge bench headed by Justice D.K. Jain.
The spat occurred between former union law minister Ram Jethmalani and Kamini Jaiswal while the court was hearing a bunch of lawsuits related to the Gujarat riots.
The acrimony started with Jaiswal objecting to Jethmalani taking up the brief on behalf of former Gujarat legislator Kalu Bhai Maliwal to challenge an April 2009 order of the apex court.
The apex court had April 27, 2009, directed a probe into the roles of Maliwal and 62 other Gujarat politicians, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and several bureaucrats for allegedly misusing the state machinery in aiding and abetting the state-wide riots in the wake of the Feb 27, 2002, Godhra train carnage.
Maliwal has sought the recall of the apex court’s order on the ground that it was issued against him without giving him an opportunity to defend himself.
Jaiswal objected to Jethmalani’s taking up the brief of an alleged perpetrator of the riots in collusion with other state functionaries’ culpability, saying that he had earlier taken a contrary stand in a related matter.
The fact that Jethmalani had earlier sought the transfer of the trial of all riot cases outside the state indicated that he was convinced with the culpability of state functionaries in fomenting the communal trouble, she said.
She insisted that advocates must observe some consistency in taking up the briefs.
At this the bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Aftab Alam, told her that the bench cannot decide what briefs the lawyers should take.
“Let a lawyer’s conscience decide what brief he should take up,” the bench observed.
At this Jaiswal shot back, “It’s not parliament that a lawyer should change sides.”
This infuriated Jethmalani, who shot back saying: “You are too small for saying that.”
Jethmalani pointed out to the court that he had fought the 2004 general election against erstwhile Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to oppose the culpability of the state’s official machinery in fomenting the communal trouble.
But Jethmalani’s remarks infuriated Jaiswal who contended that it was a court room, where lawyers stand on equal footing