[Exclusive]: Bar Associations not amenable to Art. 226, argue Delhi lawyers in SLP against One-Bar-One-Vote

Vasudha Misra

The Supreme Court has found itself  in the middle of the Delhi High Court Bar Association’s ‘One Bar One Vote’ woes. A Bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Ashok Bhushan today heard the the appeal filed by two Bar associations in Delhi – Dwarka and Shahdara, against the Delhi High Court’s judgment on the ‘One Bar One vote’ rule in Bar Association elections.

Senior Advocate Dinesh Dwivedi appeared for the petitioners.

Amongst other directions, the Delhi High Court had ordered changes to the format of the declarations required to be signed by any member desirous of voting or contesting in any bar association election in Delhi. This had triggered the ‘one bar, one vote’ rule prompting the petitioners to approach the Supreme Court.

The petition states,

“It is submitted that voting is one of the most effective tool in the hands of the members and to have their voices heard by the office bearers of the bar Association and to vent their legitimate grievances before the bar Associations. The impugned judgment has ignored this vital aspect and has, thus, violated the fundamental rights of the petitioners Association and its members.”

The petitioner has also objected to the reliance placed on the case of Supreme Court Bar Association v. B. D. Kaushik, claiming that the ‘One Bar One Vote’ principle cannot be applied in Delhi since there is no mechanism in place to identify ‘regular practitioners’ in Delhi High Court or any of the district courts.

The main contention of the petitioner association is that a lawyer in Delhi could be practising in more than one courts and could, hence, have membership in more than one Bar Association.

Restricting their right to vote at more than one place would thus, be in violation of their right to practice any profession under Article 19(1) (g).

“It is submitted that a large number of members of the petitioner association are regular practitioners at the Karkardooma Courts, Patiala House Courts and Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi and have been regularly appearing for different courts at these district courts, and hence, have a right to participate in the affairs of the bar associations in place at the such court complexes.

The impugned judgment violates the rights of the members of the petitioner Association to practice their profession and creates hindrance in the same inasmuch as the members will be compelled to choose one court for the purposes of practising and hence, will be discouraged to practice before other courts.”

The petitioner has also contended that the powers of judicial review cannot be used to alter the terms of incorporation of a society, particularly after over-riding the wishes of the members of a society.

The High Court order, which also held that an advocate will be allowed to have a chamber only in one court in the State, has ruffled quite a few feathers. In fact, the litigation in the High Court did not end there. An application for clarification was filed in the High Court in which the court passed an order on October 18 this year, making certain changes to the declaration to be filed.

Whether the apex court will want to be caught in the midst of this crossfire, will be seen post the Diwali-break, which is when the matter is now posted.

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