4 Oct 2009

Junior lawyers to be promoted: Delhi High Court

In a recent decision, the Delhi High Court observed that judges have a duty to ensure that "young pleaders and lawyers who enter the portals of courts are permitted to learn but at the same time to ensure that the interest of parties are not permitted to be compromised". Speaking in a wake of a challenge made to an order passed by lower Court, the High Court made these remarks. What happened before the lower court is also intriguing.

A suit was filed before a lower court, trial had commenced and examination of a witness had taken place. However when the matter was scheduled for cross-examination, the advocate who was authorized to cross-examine could not appear. Instead he gave an authority letter to another lawyer, authorizing him to "to appear, argue and cross examine the witness on his behalf". The lower court judge, "did not recognise the said authority letter on the premise that neither the Advocates Act nor the Code of Civil Procedure recognises nor permits any such authority" therefore did not permit the second lawyer to cross-examine the witness. This action of the lower court judge was challenged before the High Court.

Taking note of the various arguments and having heard the rival parties, the High Court declared that;
On a perusal of the provisions set out hereinabove as also the legal position as contained in the authorities of various high courts, this Court is of the opinion that there is no bar on a Pleader duly authorized by a party under a vakalatnama to engage another pleader to plead the case on his or her behalf. The power to 'plead' would include within its scope and ambit, the right to examine witnesses, to conduct admission and denial, to seek adjournments and to address arguments etc., as may be authorized. Such pleader however would not have the power to compromise a case, withdraw a case or do any other act which may compromise the interest of his or her client. In procedural matters it is not only expedient but also in the interest of speedy delivery of justice that young lawyers who work with pleaders duly authorized by clients are permitted to appear in matters. This is necessary for speedy disposal of cases and also as an encouragement to the younger professionals who are in the initial/formative years of practice.
Making incidental observations on the encouragement to be made to junior lawyers, the High Court also noted that;
Judges also have a duty to ensure that such young pleaders and lawyers who enter the portals of courts are permitted to learn but at the same time to ensure that the interest of parties are not permitted to be compromised. In view of the above-mentioned provisions of law and case law, this Court is of the view that when a counsel has been authorized under a vakalatnama to represent his client, the junior of the said counsel can be permitted to appear on behalf of the counsel representing the said client as and when the counsel himself is not in a position to appear.
For the above reasons, the High Court reversed the decision of the lower court and allowed the second lawyer to cross-examine and appear before the court.

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