The Madras High Court has granted an interim stay on an order of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) directing advocates appearing before it to wear lawyer’s gown. The order was passed by a division bench comprising Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice K Ravichandrababu on a petition by R Rajesh, an advocate from Chennai, challenging the notification issued by the NCLT Registrar prescribing the dress code to the advocates. In its interim order, the bench said, “We are of the prima facie view that NCLT has no jurisdiction to insist that advocates appearing before the benches of NCLT should compulsorily wear their advocate’s gown.” “Such an order would be in direct conflict with the rules framed by the Bar Council of India where the wearing of advocate’s gown has been held to be optional except in appearing before the Supreme Court and in High Courts,” the judges added. The petitioner, who is an advocate and member of Institute of Companies Secretaries of India and has been appearing before the High Court and other tribunals, filed the petition.
According to the petitioner, NCLT through a notification dated November 14, in addition to the dress code already approved by it, vide an order dated August 2, 2016, said wearing of gown would be necessary with effect from November 20, 2017 in all benches of NCLT for the president, members and advocates. The petitioner’s counsel contended that the order is in direct conflict with Bar Council of India rules. Stating that the rules were amended pursuant to the recommendations of the Rules Committee and approved by the Bar Council at two meetings held on August 25 and 26, 2001 and the Chief Justice of India approved the rules vide a letter dated November 12, 2001 in which wearing of advocates’ gown was made an optional one except when appearing in the Supreme Court or in High Courts.
Alleging that NCLT has no jurisdiction that the advocates appearing before it, should wear the gown, the counsel after referring to the SC order said that only High Courts have the power to frame rules regarding condition on which a person including an advocate can practise in the Supreme Court or in the High Court or subordinate courts. Concurring with the submissions, the bench granted an interim stay on the order of NCLT and issued a notice to it and posted the case for further hearing on January 22, 2018.