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CIC bans appearance of lawyer, HC stays order

An Information Commissioner has “banned” the appearance of a counsel for the External Affairs Ministry before his bench on the ground that he was not discharging his duties as an advocate, an order which has been stayed by the Delhi High Court.

According to experts, the Right to Information Act, under which Central Information Commission has been set up and derives its powers from, does not empower Information Commissioner to take steps such as banning a lawyer from appearing for a public authority.

“It is incorrect and impractical. RTI Act does not give any power to Information Commissioners to ban a lawyer from appearing. There are ways and means to handle errant lawyers but certainly they cannot be banned from pleading a case before the Commission,” former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari.

Information Commissioner M A Khan Yusufi had passed the order in the Nemi Chand Jain case underlining that lawyer for Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, P Roychaudhuri, appeared before him “without complete official records” of the case and he was not accompanied either by the CPIO concerned or First Appellate Authority despite directions in his earlier orders.

“By virtue of the factual position above, there appears that P Roychaudhuri, Learned Advocate, prima facie, seems neither in the position to oppose/defend the case on behalf of his client (Department concerned) nor to assist the Commission properly to arrive at the right conclusion for making its decision/order in the cases of the Ministry concerned,” he said in the order.

Yusufi said it is “admitted and even proved” that Roychaudhuri has not been discharging his duties as an Advocate, assigned under the provisions of Advocate Act 1961.

“In view of this, the Commission feels that, in the interest of work and even after observing the principles of natural justice, it would be appropriate and even justified to ban the appearance of Roychaudhuri, Learned Advocate, before this Bench, forthwith,” he said.
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