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Gautam Patel J ‘regrets’ his viral smackdown caused young lawyer embarrassment, says he should have blamed instructions (senior, Clasis, Gillette?)

While an outright apology this ain’t, this is certainly more than any lawyer, even in their wildest dreams, would ever expect from any judge...

Justice Gautam Patel, who had written a hugely sarcastic, hard-hitting and viral order targeting adjournment culture, has passed a new order expressing his “personal regret” if any embarrassment was caused the the junior counsel appearing before him, clarifying that it should have been directed at those who given the instructions to seek an adjournment.

(Full order below).

A quick recap: late last month counsel Nimay Dave, instructed by Clasis Law partner Mustafa Motiwala, was appearing in the Bombay high court on behalf of Gillette India in what appeared to be a false advertising case against rival Reckitt Benckiser.

However, after Dave had asked for another two weeks time beyond Patel’s earlier timetable, in order to respond to Reckitt Benckiser’s counter-response, Justice Patel had little sympathy and tore into Dave in his order, with lines such as “far be it for me to come between Mr Dave and his filings”, eventually setting the next date of hearing for November 2020 (subject to Gillette depositing Rs 10 lakh with the court as surety it would keep to timetables).

The order, as reported by us and others, went viral on social media, which appears to have given Patel some pause for thought that, in retrospect, Dave - who has been working as a counsel since 2008, according to his Linked-in profile - was maybe simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and not entirely deserving to be made an example of.

So, Patel passed a new order in the matter on 6 March, which reads:

This matter is placed today at my instance. I have done so to clarify that nothing in my order dated 22nd February 2017 is, or was intended to be, a reflection on any of the individual counsel who appeared before me on that day.

I am aware that the order of 22nd February 2017 has gained some currency outside Court. It is a matter of personal regret if this has caused Mr Dave any embarrassment.

Counsel are bound by their instructions. In particular, and I say this since his name appear in the body of that order, my order of 22nd February 2017 was not directed at Mr Dave personally but only at those whose instructions he was briefed to convey.

Indeed, as we had suspected in our initial story, the case history and instructions implied that blame was unlikely to have been at Dave’s feet alone, with seeking adjournments for busy seniors being the bread and butter of most younger lawyers at the bar:

It’s also worth noting that senior counsel Mustafa Doctor appeared for Gillette in January with Nimay Dave as his second, but at the 22 February hearing, only Dave was there (perhaps to deliver the bad news of needing more time).

That is, unless Dave had said something in court that rubbed Patel the wrong way. Patel’s order at least makes clear that this wasn’t the case.

And although it is exceedingly rare for judges to write orders for the sole purpose of (almost) saying sorry to a lawyer, it is also quite an elegant way of setting records straight (even if, legally speaking, “personal regret” is at least one firm step removed from an apology; after all, we can’t have judges apologising now, can we?).

We have also reached out to Dave for comment.

We had reached out to instructing law firm Clasis Law and Reckitt Benckiser’s law firm Agrud Partners. Clasis did not respond, while Agrud declined to discuss the matter.

kkkj caption: Notwithstanding how scary Justice Gautam Patel can clearly be, when he says sorry it is rather sweet

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