Can the Jabalpur Bar Association boycott a litigant? SC to decide

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today heard a petition filed against the Jabalpur Bar Association for allegedly passing a resolution barring all its members from appearing for the petitioner.

The petitioner Deepak Kalra filed a writ petition through Advocates A Tewari, Eliza Barr and Shree Pal Singh, seeking quashing of this impugned resolution passed by the Jabalpur Bar Association. Additionally, the petitioner also prayed for passing of a writ of Quo Warranto seeking the authority under which the Jabalpur Bar Association passed such a resolution.

Also sought is a direction to the Bar Council of India, one of the respondents in the matter, to exercise the power conferred upon it under Section 49 of the Advocates Act and frame guidelines so that no lawyer or advocate body can interfere in the discharge of an individual advocate’s duty towards a client.

The impugned resolution allegedly came to be passed by the Jabalpur Bar Association after the petitioner was accused of slapping a lawyer, Respondent 6 in this case, in the Jabalpur court premises and effectively “causing a riot”. The petitioner was present at the court in relation to cases filed by his estranged wife, Respondent no. 5, and the accusation was made by her lawyer.

The petitioner was allegedly beaten up and arrested by the Jabalpur Police, and given bail only a week later. Following this incident, the petition claims, the Jabalpur Bar Association passed the impugned resolution, news of which was also carried by some media outlets.

The case of the petitioner is that a resolution of this nature is in violation of  his rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The petition also highlights that it is also in gross contravention of the provisions of the Advocates Act.

The petition also cites the order passed by the Supreme Court in Mohd. Akhtar vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir, in which it was held that a free and fair trial is a fundamental right of an accused and the right to an attorney is integral to this fundamental right.

This matter was mentioned before the vacation bench of Justices UU Lalit and Deepak Gupta, who took it up for hearing on May 13, when notice was issued to the State of Madhya Pradesh and the Bar Council of India. The matter was listed for further hearing in the following week.

Today, the Bench of Justices Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra heard the matter. Justice Nazeer assured the petitioners that if a resolution of this nature was indeed passed, it would be withdrawn.

The Court, however, focused on the request made by the petitioner in terms of referring the matrimonial matters between the petitioner and his wife for mediation. The Court issued notice to the petitioner’s wife in that regard and also referred the matter to the Supreme Court Mediation Centre “to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement of the dispute between the parties.”

In the meantime, the Court has sought a response from the counsel appearing for the Bar Council of India.

The matter will be heard next after receiving a report from the Mediation Centre.

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