If we make mistake, it will cost you dearly: SC to AOR on filing frivolous petitions

AORs signing off on frivolous petitions: Supreme Court calls for comprehensive plan after PIL filed challenging Articles 20, 22

The Supreme Court on Tuesday called for a comprehensive plan for reformation and improvement of the Advocate-on-Record (AoR) system after noting that AoRs have simply been reduced to signing counsel who sign off on briefs without reading the contents of the petition being filed [PK Subramanian vs Secretary Department of Law and Justice and Anr]

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan KaulSudhanshu Dhulia and PK Mishra made strong observations after a public interest litigation (PIL) petition came up before it seeking declaration of fundamental rights under Article 20 and 22 of the Indian Constitution as unconstitutional

Article 20 of the Indian Constitution safeguards the rights of individuals in criminal cases. It comprises protection against double jeopardy, self-incrimination and retroactive laws.

Article 22 provides safeguards to arrested and detained individuals. It includes the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest, the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner, and the right to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, among other protections.

The Court pulled up the Advocate-on-Record (AoR) Naresh Kumar for signing off on such a petition.

It questioned how such a PIL could have been filed under Article 32 and inquired about the identities of the AoR and drafting counsel who had approved it.

Expressing its dissatisfaction, the Court suggested that the bar licenses of all three counsel involved should be reviewed due to the seriousness of the matter.

"How is this Article 32? Who is the AoR and drafting counsel, how did they sign off on this? This is not acceptable. There has to be responsibility. And you (arguing) counsel, how did you agree? What is your standing in the bar? All three bar licenses should go. This is too serious," the Court remarked.

Pertinently Justice Kaul stated that the AoR designation should not become a mere "signing fee" and that a more disciplined approach was necessary to control the situation. The Court clarified that the objective was not to punish but to instill discipline in the system.

"This business of using the AoR designation, it is a signing fee you are taking. Something has to be done to control it. You people guide, senior counsel. How long can this.... There has to be some limit. We cannot always take apology, have to improve the system, cannot let it continue. This kind of filling must stop. Idea is not to keep punishing but have discipline," he said.

Hence, the Supreme Court called upon senior counsel and AoRs to collaborate on a comprehensive plan to address this issue effectively.

"It is happening too often. AoR should not become signing authority only. It is troubling us. Merely because litigant is coming something, publicity petitions, does not mean highest court it has to be filled," the Court added.

It also asked advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who was present in the courtroom, to assist the Court in tackling the issue.

"Don't say it was a mistake. If we make mistake it will cost you dearly. Make suggestions. Do something. Mr Gaurav Agarwal (present in court) you are also AoR, assist us," the Court said.