Lawyer S. K. Kumar disbarred for misconduct

The conduct of Mr S. K. Kumar (left) was described as "intolerable" by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
The conduct of Mr S. K. Kumar (left) was described as "intolerable" by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

Lawyer S. K. Kumar, a familiar figure in the courtroom, was yesterday disbarred for misconduct that included misleading the court and wasting its time through being absent from hearings or seeking unnecessary adjournments.

Once, he asked a client to get a medical certificate (MC) to cover his mistake after a warrant of arrest was issued to the man for not showing up at a hearing. Mr Kumar had failed to inform his client he was due in court to plead guilty.

The client said Mr Kumar offered to arrange an MC for $300 but the client chose to see his own doctor.

Mr Kumar, who has practised for 29 years, was disbarred after a Court of Three Judges said he had fallen short of the required standards of integrity, probity and trustworthiness. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon called his conduct "intolerable".

The paramount duty of a lawyer, as an officer of the court, was to assist the court, said CJ Menon. But Mr Kumar's conduct shows "a gross failure... to apprehend even the most basic duty to the court". By his frequent absence and seeking of adjournments, Mr Kumar had shown "utter disregard" for the court.

He faced 11 charges of misconduct arising from two sets of complaints, one filed by the State Courts and the other by the Attorney-General's Chambers.

The Law Society asked for no more than 30 months' suspension but the court found this "grossly inadequate". Mr Kumar's lawyer, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, portrayed his client as a hardworking lawyer who took on more cases than he could handle.

But the Chief Justice rejected the argument, painting Mr Kumar as a "bumbling" lawyer "doing his incompetent best" to cope with his workload. He noted: "He chose to disregard the legitimate expectations of all the other stakeholders in the justice system over a sustained period of time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'Lawyer disbarred for misconduct'. Print Edition | Subscribe