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Delhi BC War of succession drags in complaint against Luthra in bid to unseat Sondhi [Update: Luthra says complaint without merit]

Vijay Sondhi
Vijay Sondhi

The Bar Council of Delhi’s (BCD) chairman RS Chauhan accused Luthra & Luthra litigation partner and former BCD vice chairman Vijay Sondhi of trying to obstruct the BCD from initiating disciplinary proceedings against Luthra, which Sondhi denied in a 2 June letter to Chauhan as “frivolous, bald and baseless”.

Authoritative sources confirmed that senior advocate PV Kapur filed a complaint in the BCD against Luthra around three months ago for alleged non-payment of dues. This complaint has become one contentious issue among the many accusations and counter accusations now flying between warring BCD office bearers.

BCD chairman RS Chauhan told Legally India ten days ago that the BCD had served a notice on Luthra managing partner Rajiv Luthra, a little over a month ago, for initiation of misconduct proceedings against the firm on Kapur’s complaint.

He added that a number of other law firms and lawyers such as Kochhar & Co, had been served with notice for disciplinary proceedings by the BCD. Kochhar managing partner Rohit Kochhar did not reply to an email seeking comment since yesterday. [Update: Kochhar has commented by email: "This is false and incorrect as we have neither defaulted on any such payment nor have we received any notice!!!"]

However, Luthra yesterday told Legally India that the firm had received no such notice to date. [Update]: Luthra, who spoke to Chauhan after Legally India informed him of Kapur’s complaint today, has now said that Chauhan told him about Kapur’s misconduct complaint pending in the BCD against him and that notice to Luthra will be on its way for appearing in the matter. Chauhan told him the contents of the complaint which alleges non payment of Kapur’s dues. Luthra told Legally India that a former client of the firm had not paid Kapur’s dues to either Kapur or to Luthra & Luthra, despite the firm’s efforts at recovery from the client. Luthra added that the firm has since resigned from that client’s matter and that in his considered view Kapur’s complaint has no merit, and that he will handle it appropriately.

Chauhan, in a 30 May letter suspending Luthra litigation partner Vijay Sondhi from representing himself as a member of the BCD, alleged that Sondhi had tried to “ensure” that “the Notice issued to Mr Luthra and certain other highly influential lawyers be immediately withdrawn without allowing the council to objectively and logically conclude the complaints pending before it in this regard”.

Ram Singh Chauhan
Ram Singh Chauhan

Sondhi replied to Chauhan in a 2 June letter: “I, as a member, did not oppose the issuance of any letter to anyone, much less the one issued to Mr RK Luthra […]. I expressly recused myself from expressing any opinion on the issue and have under no circumstances created any impediment in the working of the Council.”

Chauhan and BCD secretary Murari Tiwari have been putting up a fight to Sondhi’s assumption of the BCD’s secretarial post since 13 May, while Sondhi has challenged Chauhan’s holding of the BCD chair as illegal.

Game of thrones recap

Chauhan dashed off a 30 May suspension letter to Sondhi accusing him of interfering in disciplinary proceedings against Luthra, “scandalizing” the Council’s functioning by opposing certain decisions, trying to “usurp” the council’s financial power by wrongfully representing himself as its secretary, and then trying to “cover up” his irregular secretarial appointment by calling a meeting of the members to ratify his appointment in the chairman’s absence.

Sondhi in turn replied via letter yesterday refuting all of Chauhan’s allegations, challenging the legal validity of his suspension letter, and pointing out that Chauhan was illegally occupying the post of BCD chairman since 22 March when his term officially ended and re-elections were due to be held.

The DBC’s secretary Murari Tiwari, whom Sondhi had allegedly replaced on 13 May, had alleged that Sondhi’s claim to the post was false, and that he is still continuing as secretary, as Sondhi’s irregular appointment was done without a members’ meeting.

On 29 May Sondhi’s secretarial appointment was confirmed in an “extraordinary emergent meeting” of 17 members, convened by BCD vice chairman Rakesh Sherawat, after the “requisite” seven members called for such a meeting on 26 May. Sondhi told Legally India that Sherawat enjoyed the power to convene an extraordinary meeting under Rule 43 of the BCD rules, since the chairman was not present for the 29 May meeting.

However Tiwari contradicted Sondhi’s claim, citing Rule 54, and said that Sherawat had no power to convene such a meeting so long as a chairman was present in the council.

Chauhan reiterated in his 30 May letter that Sherawat had no authority to convene the 29 May meeting which stood cancelled by his order and that members were informed of such cancellation. Chauhan added that 11 July had been fixed as the date to consider the requisition for the extraordinary meeting.

He added: “However both you as well as Sh Rakesh Sherawat did not refrain yourself from acting contrary to the relevant rules/bye laws as your only aim has been to accomplish your ill-motives to usurp the powers of a Secretary as well as the financial powers of the Council, so that you can scuttle and obstruct a fair and objective decision on the pending complaints of misconduct as stated herein above.”

Sondhi, who in his 2 June letter had rebutted every claim in the suspension letter addressed to him by Chauhan, concluded with: “it is advised that the letter under reply is non est in law in any case and without prejudice be immediately withdrawn as the same may amount to preventing a public servant from carrying out his functions and for your kind information, the same is an offence under the law. Please act accordingly as advised failing which I shall be constrained to take actions (both civil and criminal) against you, at your cost and peril.”

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