The Madras High Court emphasized on Friday while dismissing a lawyer's anticipatory bail plea over an alleged COVID-19 lockdown violation (Tanuja Rajan @ Tanuja Kanthula and anr v. State). Usage of the position of advocate for aside from just causes is nothing but an act of corrupt nature, which needs to be hampered by the sword held in the hands of the statue of Justice. Justice M Dhandapani added that the doyens of the Bar, more, therefore, the Madras Bar, have held aloft the rule of law for hundreds of years.
The case attracted attention after video footage of a verbal altercation between the lawyer and the police were circulated online, in which the lawyer is seen without a mask, threatening to strip the police officer of his uniform. In the course of handling the matter, the Court has also directed the initiation of contempt of court against another lawyer who is stated to possess circulated a derogatory WhatsApp video against Justice Dhandapani.
The Court on Friday rejected arguments made for the accused lawyer that her outburst was triggered by police misbehavior and that it stemmed from a motherly affinity for her daughter, who had been stopped by the police for allegedly violating the COVID-19 lockdown. The Court added that even if the words stated to have been used by the police were "not to the liking" of the accused lawyer, she could not have acted in a manner to denigrate the dignity of the bar. Given that cops are engaged as frontline workers since the primary wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court further observed that "the least expected of the overall public and also the intellectual group of legal professionals that they ought to tend the minimum basic respect and courtesy while handling them."
Allegations made regarding misbehavior on the part of the police were also found to be not substantiated. On the opposite hand, the supreme court remarked that the trial court's earlier observations on the incident, supported video recordings of an equivalent, revealed a "very sorry state of affairs."
The Court went on to observe that the advocate in question ought to have kept the interest of the legal profession in mind when speaking in public. Given that the altercation happened within the presence of her daughter, who may be a student, the Judge added: "Not only as a mother but also as a senior to her daughter within the profession, the first petitioner need to have conducted herself during a manner befitting the status of an advocate."
All an equivalent, the Judge proceeded to acknowledge that it's only handling the anticipatory bail plea moved by her and not a case for quashing the proceedings.
Notably, the case has led the supreme court to urge the Tamil Nadu Bar Council to use its suo motu powers under Section 35 of the Advocates' Act, 1961, to act against advocates found acting during a manner that demeans the legal fraternity albeit not the complaint is formed.