SC slams lawyers for filing plea to declare Articles 20 and 22 ‘ultra vires’, seeks explanation

Saying that they showed complete lack of knowledge of the law, the Supreme Court on Tuesday strongly reprimanded three lawyers for drafting and filing a petition seeking to declare Articles 20 and 22 as ‘ultra vires’, or beyond the powers, of Part III of the Constitution.

While Article 20 deals with protection in respect of conviction for offences, Article 22 pertains to protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. Both are in Part III of the Constitution that deals with fundamental rights.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the purpose of having an Advocate on Record (AoR) in the top court is that there is a preliminary screening of the petitions. An AoR designation, it said, should not just be a signing authority for petitions.

“Somebody just gets up, you collect your fee and file a petition. This is not acceptable. Your bar licenses should be revoked. How can such a plea be filed under Article 32 of the Constitution? Who is the Advocate on Record and drafting counsel, how did they sign off on this?” the bench, also comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and PK Mishra, asked.

“There has to be some responsibility. And you (arguing) counsel, how did you agree? What is your standing in the bar? This is too serious. It has shocked our conscience that such a petition has been filed,” it added.

The top court directed the three lawyers to file an affidavit explaining the circumstances under which they filed such a petition before the court.

The bench said AoR should not become a signing authority only.

“Merely because the litigant is coming with something does not mean such a petition should be filed before the highest court,” it said, adding that it was troubled by the fact that AoR has filed such a petition.

According to the rules framed by the Supreme Court under Article 145 of the Constitution, only advocates designated as advocate-on-record can plead for a party in the apex court.

The plea, filed by a Tamil Nadu resident, said, “Declare Article 20 and 22 of the Constitution of India, 1950, as ultra vires Part III of the Constitution of India, 1950, as violative of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution”.

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