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Ever wondered what can happen if you really push the bench? Delhi HC semi-blacklists Deepak Khosla for 1 year in 118-page order; Khosla vows fight-back

Delhi high court Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva has banned advocate Deepak Khosla from filing matters or appearing in a number of Delhi courts by himself without another counsel, citing a litany of complaints from the bench against the advocate who has become well-known for his often combative and unconventional approach.

The judge, in a detailed 118-page judgment pronounced on 13 January after reserving judgment on 17 November of last year, came down heavily on Khosla for instances of misconduct and not paying costs imposed on him in a variety of cases, asking bar councils to look into Khosla’s record, though Sachdeva stopped short of holding Khosla in contempt.

Khosla has denied wrongdoing and told Legally India he would appeal.

Deepak Khosla had never shied away from head-on conflict with the bench, ranging from his long-running campaign to allow audio recording in court to more recently his aggressive litigation strategy in representing Aam Aadmi party member Somnath Bharti in a racism row, resulting in him filing criminal defamation claims against a magistrate.

Sachdeva wrote in his order that since 2008, 32 judges and judicial officers of high courts, subordinate courts, the Company Law Board and the Arbitral Tribunal had recused themselves before Khosla, either as a party or advocate:

Little did the framing fathers of the Constitution and the legislators visualize that the privilege and liberty granted to an individual to approach the court of law and to appear for himself and for others either as an attorney or as an advocate could and would be misused and abused to such an extent as has been done by this one individual Mr. Deepak Khosla.

Noting that “members of the legal profession are required to maintain higher standards of behaviour and conduct than an ordinary citizen”, Sachdeva cited several examples of judges or tribunal chairs criticising Khosla in orders, recusing themselves, starting contempt proceedings and at times imposing – so far unpaid - costs for conduct they recorded as objectionable in their orders.

Sachdevas citations included “highly obstructive and abrasive conduct”, “scandalous averments contained in his application”, “insulting language”, Khosla“interrupt[ing] the court proceedings in loud and obstructive tone”, “prima facie … criminal contempt”, “audacious” statements, and other incidences of run-ins between Khosla and the judiciary, as well as 21 instances in the Delhi high court of costs imposed on Khosla ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 35,000.

Sachdeva in detail examined case laws relating to contempt, the Advocates Act and rules of advocates’ professional conduct.

He also noted that Khosla, who is enrolled with the Karnataka bar council but had apparently never filed a matter there, appeared to be in violation of section 35 of the Advocates Act for not having applied to transfer his name to the Delhi bar council rolls within six months of Delhi having become his main jurisdiction of practice.

Soft ban from Delhi courts & bar council inquiry

Sachdeva then ordered that Khosla be “prohibited from personally appearing and addressing any court in any matter in the Delhi High Court, the District Courts of Delhi, the Company Law Board either as a litigant in person or as an attorney/authorised representative or as an Advocate for a period of one year from today”.

Sachdeva also banned Khosla from “filing application or petition in the Delhi High Court” until he proved to the court’s registry that he had paid all costs imposed on him in a number of orders.

However, Sachdeva left the door open for Khosla to file proceedings if jointly filing the application with an advocate of the Delhi bar council or to engage third party advocates in his personal litigation, instructing Delhi courts’ registries to take note.

It is clarified that the period of one year has been fixed to enable the Respondent Mr. Deepak Khosla to introspect over his conduct and to learn to respect the court and the system of administration of justice and to mend his behaviour and attitude towards the courts and the judicial officers.

If after the expiry of the said period he does not mend his behaviour and attitude towards the courts and the judicial officers, the court would be at liberty to reconsider the disposal of the Show Cause Notice and revisit the directions issued herein and pass further appropriate orders.

Sachdeva also told the BCI and the Karnataka bar council to “examine the conduct and behaviour” of Khosla “as elucidated hereinabove and to take appropriate action in accordance with law”.

Khosla disagrees: Order was ex parte & ‘premeditated’

Khosla commented in an email:

The order is an ex parte order, without hearing me, which was deliberate, as I was on my legs before HMJ Shakdher in an extended hearing on the day when he (Sachdeva J) peremptorily closed the hearing. Upon mention to him the very next day that he should fairly hear the matter because the non-appearance was involuntary and a direct consequence of my discharging my professional duties before another court, he merely shrugged, showing his premeditated intent in acting in a certain pre-disposed manner.

Furthermore, his conduct is malicious, given that he knew a complaint for initiating action against him was pending with the Chief Justice (see complaint attached). I had repeatedly asked him to release the matter on this ground, to which he would refuse. I would then urge him to record my submission and his refusal in the order, but he would refuse to do so, this refusal to record in the order what transpired being yet another indicator of his malice. He would also refuse to record in the order the vital submission that a challenge to the order dated 24-04-2012 (which he was executing) also was pending, and he should await the outcome of that challenge.

His order, even otherwise, is coram non judice, given that he insisted on adjudicating what is, in essence, a criminal contempt petition, which – as per the Roster of the Hon'ble Delhi High Court - is prescribed for a Division Bench. See what the SC has said in State of Rajasthan vs. Prakash Chand or State of Punjab vs. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar on the effect of a non-Roster Judge hearing a matter = coram non judice.

Khosla added that he would appeal and consider taking action against Sachdeva:

The order should be declared to be a nullity in less than a week. For that, I am tempted to take it to the court below, so that its inherent state nature of being a nullity is in even sharper focus. It shall also not materially affect my appearance in Court, as the direct challenge in suit notwithstanding, I also have the concurrent right to challenge it collaterally in light of Section 44 of the Evidence Act wherever and whenever it irks me.

Khosla had spent years in the courts as a serial writ petitioner before becoming a lawyer at the age of 53, as described in a Legally India profile of 2013.

Deepak Khosla - Sanjeev Sachdeva order

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