In a noteworthy decision, the Karnataka High Court, led by Justice M. Nagaprasanna, annulled the Karnataka State Bar Council’s suspension order against advocate Chikkanna. The court, citing a violation of natural justice principles, set aside the order dated 10.07.2023, emphasizing the necessity for affording the petitioner a fair hearing.
Chikkanna, an advocate enrolled in 2017 before the Karnataka State Bar Council, faced allegations leading to the registration of a criminal case under various sections, including those of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989. The Bar Association, Gundlupet, subsequently filed a complaint with the State Bar Council, alleging professional misconduct and seeking disciplinary action.
The court noted that the petitioner, being in judicial custody, did not receive the notice issued by the Council, leading to the order of suspension on 10.07.2023. Acknowledging that the petitioner was not afforded an opportunity to be heard due to his incarceration, the court held the suspension order as untenable.
Advocate Anil Shekar K S, representing the petitioner, argued that the lack of a hearing violated principles of natural justice. The State Bar Council conceded that the petitioner was not heard due to his judicial custody, which was unknown to the Council at the time.
Justice M. Nagaprasanna’s bench, upon recognizing the petitioner’s inability to receive notice while in custody, granted the plea, quashed the suspension order, and remitted the matter back to the Karnataka State Bar Council. The Council was directed to provide a fair opportunity for a hearing to the petitioner before passing any further orders in accordance with the law.
This decision is a significant development emphasizing the paramount importance of affording a fair hearing to advocates facing disciplinary action, especially when circumstances prevent their timely response to notices issued by the Bar Council.