Representatives of deceased complainant can pursue inquiry against lawyers, rules Madras High Court – The Hindu

Chennai News

It quashes an order passed by Bar Council disciplinary panel refusing to allow legal heirs to prosecute in a land grab case

It quashes an order passed by Bar Council disciplinary panel refusing to allow legal heirs to prosecute in a land grab case

The Madras High Court has quashed an order passed by a disciplinary committee of Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP) refusing to permit the legal heirs of a deceased complainant to pursue a complaint lodged against two lawyers for having grabbed their immovable property.

Justices P.N. Prakash and A.A. Nakkiran held that the order passed by the disciplinary committee on March 6, 2021 was contrary to Rule 11 of Chapter I in Part VII of the Bar Council of India (BCI) rules which empowers the committee to continue the inquiry even if the legal heirs do not step in.

They pointed out that the BCI rules categorically states that if a complainant died pending an inquiry before the disciplinary committee and if there was no representative willing to conduct the case on his/her behalf, the committee could either proceed with the inquiry or drop it.

“The logical sequitur is that where the legal heirs have come forward to prosecute the complaint in place of the deceased, the disciplinary committee is not powerless to order substitution and, at any rate, cannot reject their request on the specious ground of abatement,” the judges wrote.

Further, referring to a contingency of an advocate (facing disciplinary proceedings) dying during the course of inquiry, the BCI rules state even in such cases, the inquiry could be dropped altogether only if the complaint was against only one advocate and not if it was against multiple advocates.

If the complaint was against multiple advocates, the disciplinary proceedings should continue against the surviving lawyers unless the committee decided otherwise. Therefore, the judges were baffled as to why the committee, in the present case, refused to allow the legal heirs of a complainant to pursue the inquiry.

“The disciplinary committee appears to have been blissfully ignorant of the BCI rules… Thus, even where there is none to prosecute a case before the disciplinary committee, the complaint cannot be mechanically dropped on the technical ground that it has abated,” the Division Bench observed.

It directed BCTNP to reconstitute the committee, with members other than those who were part of the committee which had passed the March 16, 2021 order, and ensure that the inquiry in the land grab complaint against the two lawyers gets completed within three months.

The orders were passed on a writ petition filed by the wife and children of T.S. Jagannathan (since dead) who had accused two lawyers of having colluded with a politician to grab 25 acres of land belonging to his mother T.S. Varadhammal in Adhiyamankottai village in Dharmapuri district.