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A group of 24 advocates has filed a petition before the Karnataka High Court challenging the resolution passed by the Hubli Bar Association in relation to the three Kashmiri students who were charged with sedition. (BT Venkatesh and others vs State of Karnataka and others)
The Association had resolved on February 15 that none of its members would appear for the three Kashmiri students who were arrested on charges of sedition for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans and posting it on social media.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar has posted the matter for hearing on February 20. The petition is filed by Advocate BT Venkatesh and others.
The plea states that the resolution passed by the Hubli Bar Association is illegal, without the force of law, and violates the fundamental right of the accused under Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India, which states that all persons who are arrested or detained have a fundamental right to be represented by a legal practitioner of their choice.
The petitioner further submitted that on February 17, when the accused persons were produced before the JMFC court at Hubli, they were unrepresented by any advocate. This was a consequence of the resolution of the Hubli Bar Association, the petition states. As a result, they were remanded to judicial custody for 14 days.
The plea further states that the resolution prevents advocates from performing their duty to the public.
"The impugned resolutions obstruct advocates from discharging their public duty to ensure the fair diligent and fearless representation of persons."
Such resolutions have been held to be illegal by the Apex Court on a plethora of occasions, the plea states. Despite the same, such resolutions continue to be passed, thus creating a situation of fear and intimidation.
In this regard, reference is made to a similar resolution passed recently by the Mysuru Bar Association, which barred its members from representing Nalini Balakumar, the student who was charged for holding a Free Kashmir placard during an anti-CAA protest.
The PIL further argued that the resolution is in blatant violation of the Supreme Court's ruling in AS Mohammed Rafi v. State of Tamil Nadu Rep. by Home Dept. and Ors. In that case, the Apex Court has described resolutions of this nature as being "wholly illegal, against all traditions of the bar, and against professional ethics."
Further, the petition states that,
"The impugned resolution violates the common law “cab-rank rule” which is encoded into Indian statutory law in Rule 11 of the Bar Council of India Rules, under Section II titled “Duty to the Client’ of Chapter II on “Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette."
PIL in Karnataka High Court
The petition further states that the Hubli Bar Association resolution will not fall under the purview of the Rule 11 exception/
“The impugned resolution cannot be defended on the basis of the Rule 11 exception for “special circumstances” which justify a refusal to accept a particular brief. Indeed, such special circumstances can never exist for a collective refusal by a whole Bar Association to accept a particular brief. This was recognised by the Uttarakhand High Court in Kuldeep Agarwal v. State Of Uttarakhand and ors.”
PIL in Karnataka High Court
Apart from the above, the petition also points out that during the time the accused persons were produced before the court, some persons had attempted to assault the students within the court premises itself.
“A few men tried to assault the students, but the police personnel were seen pushing the said persons away. Even when the students were inside the police vehicle, some persons hit the sides of the police bus and people are seen throwing slippers and stones at the police van."
On these grounds, the petition has prayed to quash the decision of the Hubli Bar Association and term it as illegal. The petition also urged the Court to set up a Judicial Committee to probe the violence that took place at the premises of the JMFC Court, Hubli.
By way of interim relief, the petition seeks directions to stay the operation of the resolution and further to ensure police protection for the advocates who represent the accused.
Advocate Sruti Chaganti will appear on behalf of the petitioners.
[Read the petition here]