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37. Shri Dasappa's Case

(Originally appeared under the title “A Note” by M. D.)
Perhaps a brief note of facts is necessary to explain Gandhiji's remarks on the extraordinary order of the Mysore Chief Judge directing Shri H. C. Dasappa to be struck off the rolls of the High Court. The first charge against Shri Dasappa was that he had disobeyed the Kolar District Magistrate's order prohibiting him from addressing meetings in a certain area. The other and, in the Judge's opinion more serious, charge was that Shri Dasappa as President of the Mysore Congress advised the Congressmen not to participate in an inquiry appointed by Government. The inquiry was to be made into serious allegations of torture made by the Congress against police officials. It was entrusted to a Judge of the Mysore Court. The Mysore Congress, acting on Gandhiji's advice, decided not to participate in the inquiry, as it was not of an impartial and independent character. This action on the part of Shri Dasappa as President of the Congress could by no stretch of imagination be described as having anything to do with his conduct as a lawyer, but it was regarded by the Chief Justice as "a defect of character unfitting him to be an advocate of the High Court".
He was asked by the High Court to explain his conduct. He naturally questioned the procedure as irrelevant, but described in a statement the circumstances leading to the decision for non- participation in the inquiry. This is what Shri Dasappa said in the course of his statement:

"The Government appointed Justice A. R. Nageswara Iyer to carry on what was admittedly a departmental inquiry, not open to the press or the public. Attempts made to have the inquiry postponed with a view to arrive at an amicable settlement in the matter, were of no avail. It was then that the Mysore Congress was advised by Mahatma Gandhi to negotiate for a change in the personnel of the inquiry... The opponent submits that the inquiry was only a departmental one and there was no court constituted for the purpose. There was no legal obligation whatever on the part of Congressmen to tender evidence at the inquiry. The moral obligation would only arise in case the tribunal was satisfactory."
It is these words that provoked the ire of the Chief Justice, and in criticizing them he has made certain statements of astounding audacity: "To make a foul allegation against one's neighbour and to refuse either to withdraw it or substantiate it, was a conduct to which no decent-minded man who had not lost all sense of fairness would descend or advise others to descend." Again: "I understand from the respondent's statement that the aim of his political association is to get responsible government established in this State. This is a form of government which many of us would admire, and all of us, who are not judges, are at liberty to advocate. This is not an occasion on which it would be proper to discuss the advantages or disadvantages of that form of government. But I think we shall agree that that form of government can have no chance of success in any country in which there is not a general spirit of fairness throughout the country. The respondent, in this matter of deterring his followers from withdrawing or substantiating their charges against their fellow-subjects, has shown himself devoid of that spirit of fairness. He has stated in one part of his statement that he did so at the dictates of a person outside the State. No man fit to be an advocate of this Court can submit his conscience to anyone else in that way. It is no excuse for such conduct." Again, the Chief Justice, proceeding, observed, says The Hindu report, that, "it was surprising that the respondent, the professed votary of truth, should have behaved in such a way. Perhaps it is because truth is so often degraded in this country into nothing more than a political catchword that the respondent has lost all appreciation of its meaning and value. It was a sad thing indeed for anyone to have so degraded himself and to have lowered his moral standards. It would not be fair to require other members of this honourable profession to associate in the work of the courts with a man who had allowed his morals to be so debased, nor would it be safe to allow litigants to allow their cases in his hands. In my opinion it is quite clear that the respondent has become by defect of character unfit to remain an advocate of this court."
Harijan, 13-7-1940, p. 205-206