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CAN JUNIOR COUNSEL CONDUCT CROSS EXAMINATION? – Delhi HC

NITIKA GUPTA VS. SUDHA GUPTA  CM(M) 1644/2019 AND CM APPL.49836/2019, 49837/2019 – November 19, 2019.

The Hon’ble Justice PRATHIBA M. SINGH of Delhi high court passed an order related to the issue of whether junior counsel has the right to cross-examine the witness, challenging the order passed in a Trial Court.

The issue considered by the Hon’ble High court is whether the junior counsel can be denied to cross-examine the witness on the ground that they are not authorized by the main counsel or by the party (petitioner/ respondent).

Pertaining to the case the petitioner here is in judicial custody and the main counsel is busy in attending some matter in Hon’ble High court Patna.  It was the last opportunity to cross-examine the witness by the respondent, thus adjournment cannot be granted.

The Administrative Civil Judge (ACJ) did not permit the junior counsel appearing from the chambers of the filing counsel to cross-examine the witness on the ground that he was not authorized.  This is found to be contrary to the judgment passed by the same court in the case of VEENA GUPTA VS. BAJAJ ALLIANZ LIFE INSURANCE CO. LIMITED, CM(M) 1555/2019 on October 30, 2019 where it was stated that if the junior counsels are ready to cross-examine the witness and to argue the matter, so long as they are from the same filing counsel’s office and are well known about the facts of the case they can be permitted to appear and to conduct the proceedings.

“Junior counsels, who work in the filing counsel’s chamber, and are aware of the facts and assist the court ought not to be described as proxy counsels. In the practice of law, courts have a duty to encourage junior counsels who may not have filed vakalatnamas and ought to hear them if they are ready to assist the court”. (Stated in paragraph number 6 of the above-stated judgment)

The exception stated in the above case is that if there are any orders such as withdrawal of a suit, recordal of settlement in a suit, etc., the presence of the filing counsel is essential. Therefore a junior counsel also has a right to conduct cross-examination with the witness.

These judgments encourage avoiding the usage of the term “proxy counsel” if the juniors are working in the filing counsel’s chamber and are aware of the facts and assist the court.  Instead of proxy counsel, they can be termed as “Advocate appearing for Ld. Counsel for the plaintiff/defendant”.  It also encourages the junior counsel to appear before the court with full preparation that the court ought to be heard and effective orders can be passed. There is a minor role played by the filing counsel in the process of uplifting the junior counsel or advocates.  They have to encourage the junior counsels and advocates to make submissions and argue matters.

Thus with this case, the impugned order clearly records that Shri. Goswami the junior counsel who appeared was ready to cross-examine the witness.

View/Download Judgment: Nitika Gupta v. Sudha Gupta

Akshayan K

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