CASE: Madhavendra L Bhatnagar v. Bhavna Lall
CORAM: Hon’ble Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Hon’ble Justice B.R. Gavai and Hon’ble Justice Krishna Murari
The SC has pulled up a lawyer who, in his advice to his client, allegedly speculated about the outcome of a pending appeal before it. In our view, prima facie, this is bordering on professional misconduct and needs to be proceeded with, the bench composed of Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari said and directed the party to file an affidavit and reveal the name of the advocate.
The appeal before the Supreme Court resulted from an order of the Trial Court dismissing an application lodged by a husband (plaintiff) seeking an interim injunction against his wife restraining her from bringing proceedings against him before the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County. The plaintiff-husband approached the Supreme Court, while the High Court had upheld the Trial Court order. The bench of the Supreme Court disagreed with both the judgments of the Trial Court and the High Court and set aside the orders given. Thus it was observed:
“Be that as it may, during the pendency of the stated suit for declaration and for direction to handover custody of the minor child, an application had been moved by the appellant before the Trial Court which came to be rejected on the ground, that the Superior Court of Arizona was outside India and not subordinate to that court. This view noted by the Trial Court is completely erroneous and ill-advised. For, the relief claimed by the appellant was for grant of an interim anti-suit injunction against the respondent and not against the Superior Court of Arizona, as such. When the matter traveled to the High Court at the instance of the appellant, even the High Court proceeded on an incorrect basis, that the courts in India could adjudicate the controversy between the parties, only after the Superior Court of Arizona would pass an order in the pending proceedings. That was not the purpose for which the ex parte ad interim relief was sought by the appellant. In any case, no judgment of this Court has been brought to our notice, which says that if the other party had already resorted to proceedings before another court including outside India, an anti-suit injunction cannot be issued even if the fact situation so warrants. In our opinion, both the Trial Court and the High Court misapplied the legal position and committed a manifest error, in rejecting the ad-interim relief claimed by the appellant against the respondent during the pendency of the proceedings between the parties before the Court at Bhopal.”
The bench then barred the wife from pursuing the pending action brought by her before the Superior Court of Arizona or from lodging any other proceedings, including interim applications, in any subsequent proceedings (with the exception of the proceedings pending before the Bhopal court) until further orders were given by the Bhopal court.
The Court took note of the response of the wife (respondent) to the service of notice given in the appeal, in which it was held that her Indian attorney had advised her that the appeal pending before the Court would not be fruitful at all. Taking serious exception to this, the bench observed: “We fail to understand as to how an advocate appearing in the matter of instructing the litigant who is a party before the Supreme Court of India would be in a position to prejudge the outcome of the proceedings or if we may say so speculate about the outcome thereof. Prima facie, this, in our opinion, is bordering on professional misconduct and needs to be proceeded with. To take this issue to its logical end, we direct the respondent to file an affidavit and disclose the name of 6 the advocate from India, who had so advised the respondent and on the basis of which she was advised to take a stand before the Superior Court of Arizona, as noted in Annexure P-2 to the I.A. No. 6177 of 2021. This proceeding will be treated as suo moto action initiated by this Court. The respondent shall file an affidavit within two weeks from today and the suo moto proceedings to be notified by the Registry on 05.02.2021.”