No special consideration for lawyers coming from other places to argue; their absence not ground for adjournment: Bombay High Court

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The Bombay High Court recently stated that lawyers and counsel who appear for parties from outside of its territorial jurisdiction will not be given any special consideration and their absence will not be a ground for adjournment [Deepak Kochhar v. ED]
Single-judge Justice Amit Borkar made it clear that adjournments will not be granted on the ground that lawyers are appearing from outside the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court.

“It is made clear that counsels appearing for the parties are from outside is no ground to grant special status to them. It is made clear that on the next date or any dates thereafter, no adjournment shall be granted on the ground that the counsels are from outside the territorial jurisdiction of this Court,” the judge said.

The territorial jurisdiction of the principal seat extends across districts of Maharashtra including Solapur, Sangli and Sindhudurg which are far from Mumbai city where the principal seat presides.

Justice Borkar passed the order in a plea filed by Deepak Kochhar, husband of former Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar, seeking quashing of money laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the alleged ICICI Bank-Videocon case.

When the petition was listed for hearing on April 17, Advocate Dadhichi Mhaispurkar sought adjournment as the senior advocate who was the lead counsel in the matter could not appear due to difficulty.

Senior Advocate Vikram Chaudhari, a counsel from Delhi had previously appeared in the matter for Kochhar.

While Justice Borkar allowed the request for adjournment, he clarified that no such further adjournments will be granted.

All benches of the Bombay High Court are conducting hearings physically and lawyers have to be present in the court.

The only exception is the bench led by Justice GS Patel which has continued with hybrid hearings which had started during COVID pandemic.

Further, for bench led by Acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala, lawyers or parties may be permitted to appear virtually after taking permission from the judge.

The money laundering case against Kochhar and others being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) relates to the siphoning off of six high value loans from ICICI Bank to various companies of Videocon Industries to the tune of ₹300 crore, in contravention of the rules and policies of the sanctioning committee of the bank.

Kochhar has challenged an order of the Special Judge hearing the case, in which process was issued based on a prosecution complaint (akin to a chargesheet), as well as all consequential proceedings arising from the same.

The case has been pending since 2021.

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