The Madhya Pradesh Bar Council has sought explanation from former High Court judge Justice S K Gangele, who has resumed practice post-retirement, if he recently represented in the Supreme Court a person whose bail plea he heard in the HC.
Calling it a case of professional misconduct, the council on Tuesday served a notice on the former judge, asking him to explain within a month whether Ritu Ahuja was the same person in the two orders – one he passed as a HC judge, and the other passed by the apex court, in which he defended her.
Ahuja, a resident of Jabalpur, was accused of killing her infant daughter by drowning her in a drain in 2014. She was sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court in Jabalpur in September 2016.
An apex court bench of Justices R Banumathi and Subhash Reddy on April 12 suspended her sentence saying, “In the facts and circumstances of the present case and considering the period of imprisonment undergone by the petitioner and also considering the fact that the hearing of the appeal may take quite some time, the sentence of imprisonment imposed upon the petitioner is ordered to be suspended and the petitioner shall be released on bail subject to her execution of bail bonds to the satisfaction of the committal court. The committal court is at liberty to impose appropriate conditions.”
Bar association president Shivendra Upadhyay said Gangele will have to explain why the next general body meeting of the association should not consider action against him under Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961, which deals with professional or other misconduct.
The notice says the association believes that it’s a case of professional misconduct because he has represented as lawyer, despite being aware of the details of the case, a person whose previous plea he had decided after a judicial process.
Gangele, who retired in July 2018, told The Indian Express that he did not commit any professional misconduct because facts in the two orders are different. He said he had rejected Ahuja’s plea for regular bail as judge when she was an undertrial under Section 439 of CrPC. He represented her last week in the apex court as advocate when she was a convict. She had filed a special leave petition against her conviction. Gangele further said that Ahuja’s plea against conviction was heard by another bench and her plea for suspension of sentence was rejected by another bench. He said he is not associated with the criminal appeal against conviction pending before the high court.