Karnataka HC directs police protection for lawyers who wish to represent three Kashmiri students charged with sedition
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Karnataka HC directs police protection for lawyers who wish to represent three Kashmiri students charged with sedition

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court today directed the Hubli Commissioner of Police to ensure complete police protection for those advocates who wish to represent the three Kashmiri engineering students against whom sedition charges were pressed (BT Venkatesh and others vs State of Karnataka and others).

The Hubli Bar Association had recently passed a resolution stating that no member shall file a vakalat for the three Kashmiri students who were charged for sedition for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans and posting it on social media. This prompted a group of 24 advocates to file a petition before the Karnataka High Court challenging the resolution

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar today remarked,

"How can the Bar Association pass such a resolution ... By passing such a resolution they are obstructing court work. Are they carrying out a mini trial by themselves?"
Karnataka High Court

Chief Justice Oka further stated that,

"We will ensure that they (advocates who wish to represent the accused) are able to file bail applications for the accused."

Karnataka High Court

The Court observed that the resolution passed is wholly illegal and against the traditions of the Bar. Moreover, the resolution is against the constitutional right of accused persons to have an advocate of their choice represent them, the Court observed.

In this regard, the Court urged the Hubli Bar Association to reconsider its resolution, as it appeared to be "ex-facie" against the mandate of law. The Court also pointed out that the Bar Association was bound by the Constitutional mandate and additionally, its members are bound by professional ethics envisaged in the Bar Council of India Rules.

However, if the Bar Association does not reconsider its resolution, the Court would be compelled to examine its legality, the Bench forewarned.

The Court further directed the petitioners to implead the office bearers of the Hubli Bar Association as well.

Senior Advocate Ravivarma Kumar will be appearing on behalf of the petitioners in the matter.

Recently, the Mysuru Bar Association had passed a similar resolution requesting all its members to refrain from appearing for Nalini Balakumar, who was charged with sedition for holding a Free Kashmir placard during an anti-CAA protest.

This resolution had also triggered a reaction, with around 169 lawyers from the state signing a Vakalatnama offering to appear for her in court. Balakumar was later granted anticipatory bail by a Mysuru Court.

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