Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Madras High Court has quashed a notification issued by the Registrar of NCLT which made it mandatory for advocates appearing before any bench of NCLT to wear gowns.

Read Judgment

A bench of Justice K Ravichandrabaabu (since retired) and Justice TS Sivagnanam had ordered an interim stay on the operation of the order holding it to be in conflict with the Rules of the Bar Council of India which makes wearing of gowns mandatory for an advocate only in case she or he is appearing in the Supreme Court or the high courts.

The division bench of  Justice R Mahadevan and Justice Mohammed Shaffiq in the judgment noted that as per Section 34 of the Advocates Act and the Bar Council of India Rules, only the High Court can frame rules for the dress code for the appearance of advocates.

"In absentia, the rules in chapter IV of the Bar Council of India Rules shall prevail and the Tribunals have no authority to issue any instructions determining the dress code for the appearance of the advocates before it. When there are statutory rules framed by the competent authority and when the statute has conferred the powers on the High Court with reference to prescription of the dress code, any instruction, direction, advisory by the Tribunal, especially when it runs contrary to the statutory rules, is ultravires the Act, and without there being any source of power for issuance of such directions."

It also said that it could be inferred that the wearing of “gown” is only optional and not mandatory before any courts other than the Supreme Court or the High Cours

The court added that the powers prescribed under Rule 51 of the NCLT Rules are merely for discharging functions as per the Act, in accordance with the principles of natural justice and equity. The same could not mean conferring power to prescribe the dress code, more so when it is contrary to the Bar Council of India rules, it said.

The court also noted that “other powers” granted to the President of the NCLT are with respect to the administrative power of the President and that also could not be stretched to include the power to frame any rule or issue any instruction, in the nature of the one impugned, to prescribe the dress code for the advocates. 

The court noted that during the pendency of proceedings, the NCLT modified its earlier order and followed the Bar Council of India Rules with respect to the dress code for legal practitioners. 

"The proceedings dated 27.01.2023 is taken on record. However, the impugned order, though withdrawn, will stand quashed on the basis of the reasoning as adumbrated hereinbefore," it added.

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