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A Mysuru court on Monday adjourned the hearing of the anticipatory bail application filed on behalf of Nalini Balakumar, a student who had recently been booked for sedition for allegedly holding a "Free Kashmir” placard during a protest at the University of Mysore.
A few days after the Mysuru Bar Association passed a resolution barring its members from appearing for Balakumar, around 169 lawyers from the state - including Senior Advocates - signed a Vakalatnama offering to appear for her in court.
Appearing before the court of Additional District and Session Judge Jerald Rudolph Mendonca on Monday, Advocate Anis Pasha stated that the charges levelled against Balakumar are completely baseless and false.
The primary argument was that Balakumar was only holding a placard, which does not amount to sedition. Prima facie, there is no material against the said charges, Pasha contended. He further argued there has been a trend of booking people under charges of sedition if they raise their voice or express their dissent against the government or its policies.
Therefore, the Court should view the matter seriously and strict action must be taken against the concerned police officers for misuse of their power, Pasha argued.
Advocate Pasha further assured the Court that there are no chances of Balakumar absconding, in the event of bail being granted.
Since the prosecution sought for further time, the matter will be next heard on January 24.
On January 10, the court had granted interim anticipatory bail to Balakumar on her executing a bond of Rs. 1 lakh and surety of the like amount, based on the following conditions:
1. The Petitioner shall co-operate with the Investigating Officer in the investigation and shall appear for the enquiry as and when called by the Investigating Officer.
2. The Petitioner shall not repeat similar offences in future.
3. The Petitioner shall not tamper evidence.
4. The Petitioner shall not leave the jurisdiction of this Court till the disposal of this petition.
Balakumar, who is an ex-student of the University of Mysore, had held a “Free Kashmir” placard during a protest held at the University premises on January 8, organised by Dalit Students’ Association and Mysore University Research Students Association. Owing to this incident, the police had booked her for sedition under the Indian Penal Code.
Subsequently, the Mysuru Bar Association had released a statement that no lawyer would represent Balakumar as what she did was an “anti national activity”.
Speaking to Bar & Bench, Mysuru Bar Association President S Anand Kumar said,
“Some members of our bar association wrote to us saying we must not represent the person who was involved in an anti-national activity.”
Senior Advocate and former Chairman of the Backward Classes Commission CS Dwarakanath, one of the lawyers to come out in support of Balakumar, said,
The statement issued by Mysuru Bar Association is against Advocate ethics. How can you decide whether it is a case of sedition or not without a trial? Moreover, it is the fundamental right of every citizen to be represented in Court. The Mysuru Bar Association has a taken a unilateral decision and it is a biased decision. That is why we have filed a vakalatnama in Court now. Around 160 advocates have signed the vakalatnama. Moreover, she [Nalini Balakumar] is a dalit girl from Tamil Nadu who is alone now…We are concerned for her.
Former Public Prosecutor and practising advocate at the Karnataka High Court BT Venkatesh expressed shock at the representation made by the Mysuru Bar Association.
What the Mysore Bar association has done is shocking. In fact, this trend needs to be decapitated. If a lawyer does not understand the constitutional mandate then who will? As lawyers, we don’t have a choice in such matters, it is our duty to represent people in their matters. After all, it is just a student holding a placard in a protest. It can signify many things. It is an expression of a person…. Registering an offence of sedition in the matter shows the arbitrariness of the police.
[Read the interim bail order passed on January 10]