Perils of video conferencing : Rajasthan HC lawyer appears in ‘baniyan’ for online hearing.

With the nationwide lockdown completing one month, India is just about getting used to working from home or maybe not quite.

While the internet is flooded with pictures and memes of people focusing on looking sharp upwards of the waist, a formal shirt and a tie for the video conferencing, paired with one’s favourite shorts or pyjamas is probably as far as people would stretch it. But one advocate in Rajasthan took it a notch higher.

Most high courts in the country, as well as the Supreme Court, have been conducting hearings via video conferencing during the lockdown period. The Rajasthan High Court is no exception and it played host to a rare fashion faux pas, one for the digital age.

On April 24, the Rajasthan HC was due to hear a bail application via video conferencing. As is the norm, the lawyers for different parties log into the platform hosting the conference. Only this time, when the lawyer for the petitioner, Ravindra Kumar Paliwal logged in wearing a baniyan (vest). That’s right. The weekend came early, with the advocate turning up for a HC hearing in an undershirt (or a vest).

Hearing across the HCs and the Supreme Court see lawyers and judges wear the formal uniform comprising of a black coat, white shirt, white band and sometimes even the black gown.  So when the baniyan featured on the conference call, one can understand the shock experienced by Justice Sanjeev Prakash Sharma of the Rajasthan HC.

Refusing to hear the bail application, Justice Sharma reprimanded the lawyer and issued a formal order recording, “Learned counsel for the petitioner was contacted through video conferencing and he was found to be wearing baniyan.”

The order passed by Justice Sharma reiterated that court functioning during the lockdown does not exempt lawyers from wearing their uniform. The HC order observed that the hearing might be through digital means, the decorum of the court needs to be maintained. The HC order also cited the Advocates Act, which clearly required lawyers to wear their uniforms while pleading their cases.

The case has now been adjourned on account of the faux pas to May 5.

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