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NEW DELHI: Advocates, arguing before virtual courts from the comfort of homes and farmhouses, do not seem to be able not to a sip of tea or coffee, so intrinsic to the Indian way of life, while on the job. With many advocates seen in video-conference proceedings of the Supreme Court and high courts taking cups to their lips, a storm brewed on the court decorum front.
First, it was the dress. Some were found in their vests and were reprimanded by the judges. Then, some lawyers were found dressed in casuals. They were told to button up and wear at least a tie even as a concession was made for not wearing the lawyers’ coat and gowns.
But a very senior advocate and constitutional expert tore the last vestige of court decorum when he blew smoke from his hookah during arguments in an important case before a high court. He tried to hide it by putting a case file before his face. But there was little he could do except sport a sheepish look as he exhaled plumes of smoke that he had dragged from his old-style hookah, with the actions prominently displayed on the virtual court video screen.
On Thursday, an advocate was found chewing gutka and spitting nonchalantly while appearing in a case before a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari. The judges took serious exception to this breach of decorum. The lawyer was initially adamant that he was not chewing gutka but when the judges said they saw him doing so, he apologised.
When seniors throw decorum to the wind, it is natural that the greenhorns too would try to stretch its boundaries. But irrespective of the stature of lawyers, almost everyone is positioning themselves before book racks while arguing cases. It is difficult to tell whether it is intended to indicate the intrinsic link between the profession and books or to show off one’s book collection.
In any case, judges have realised the handicap most lawyers face in advancing arguments through virtual mode and are seen to accommodate them by allowing them to argue for a longer time, much more than what they used to get during physical hearings.

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