Karnataka High Court
Karnataka High Court
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PIL in Karnataka HC challenges Mysuru Bar Association resolution restraining lawyers from appearing for student who held "Free Kashmir" placard

The Mysore District Bar Association had issued a resolution earlier cautioning its members from representing Nalini Balakumar, who has been charged with sedition for holding a 'Free Kashmir' placard during anti-CAA protests at the Mysore University.

Rintu Mariam Biju

A plea has been filed before the Karnataka High Court challenging the decision of Mysore District Bar Association to restrict its members from representing Nalini Balakumar, who has been charged with sedition for holding a 'Free Kashmir' placard during anti-CAA protests at the Mysore University.

The plea moved by Advocate Ramesh Naik informs that the Executive Committee of the Association had passed a resolution on January 16, cautioning other member advocates to abstain from filing a vakalath or appearing on behalf of Balakumar. The resolution issued to this end also termed that Nalini an 'Anti-National', the plea submits.

As per the plea, the Association went on to attach copies of the resolution at multiple locations of Mysore City Court Complex. Warning messages were also sent through print as well as electronic media to all its Advocate members. The warning messages stated that any failure to abide by the resolution would result in strict action, the plea informs.

The petitioner has claimed that many of the Association members have not supported this resolution. The resolution was issue despite verbal conflict regarding the controversial move as well, the plea states. It is added,

"... the more controversial act ... is that they [Association] were not sharing the copy of the resolution stated by them to have passed, to not to file vakalath on behalf of the accused, despite the oral/written requisition made to them by many Advocates. But copy of such instructions are being attached at multiple locations including the notice board of Mysore City Court Complex."

A representation was also submitted to the Karnataka State Bar Council on January 23 this year to direct the Mysore Bar Association to refrain from acting against to the rights and interests of the Advocates of Mysore, the petitioner claims.

Petitioner being a law abiding citizen and an Advocate by profession, has made a requisition/representation dated 23/01/2020 to Karnataka State Bar Council, Respondent No.1 herein, to direct the Respondent No.2, not act against to the Right, Privileges and interest of the Advocates of Mysore District so that it will set a wrong precedent and politicization of the Bar and imposition of individual thought on all Advocates…

PIL petitioner

Registering protest over the Association's move, the petitioner argues that the decision of the Mysore Bar Association to restrict its members from appearing for Balakumar violates the right to practice, which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

Therefore, it is contended that the decision of the Mysore Bar Association is arbitrary, unmindful and without application of mind.

An Advocate is to do his part individually and as a member of the organized Bar to improve his profession, the Court and the law. In a free society Advocate has a responsibility that of acting as an intelligent, unselfish leader of public opinion. Hence the decision of the Respondent No.2 or anyone for that matter, to restrict any of its Advocate members not to file vakalath on behalf of any accused person without sufficient cause, is arbitrary, unmindful and without application of mind.

PIL petitioner

The petitioner has prayed that the High Court order the Karnataka Bar Association to direct the Mysore District Bar Association, or any other District Bar Association for that matter, "To safeguard the rights, privileges and interest of the Advocates on its roll and not to indulge in the activities which lower the dignity of our esteemed judicial institution."

In January, a Mysuru Court had granted anticipatory bail to Nalini Balakumar. While granting bail, the Court stated that,

“This court is of the firm view that at this stage any person including this court cannot form an opinion or declare whether the Petitioner has committed the offence of sedition or not.”

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 had been involved in an “anti national activity”.

[Read the PIL here]

PIL_FreeKashmir-Placard-Issue.pdf
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