Expressing Concern On Use Of Money, Muscle, Communal, Political, Liquor Power Ahead Of Bar Council Elections, Madras HC Sets Directions For All, Including IT Dept [Read Order]
Observing that the ensuing elections to the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is more glorified for use of money power, communal power, political power, muscle power and liquor power, the Madras High Court has set out directions for the Bar Council of India, the police and the Income Tax Department to ensure fake lawyers or those indulging in corruption to win elections can be weeded out while directing that only those lawyers who have 10 reported judgments, five contested judgments in each year in the previous five years can contest elections and those holding posts of profit are barred.
The court also quashed the January 4 resolution of the BCI vide which it had deferred taking any decision on the amended eligibility rules prepared by the special committee for those desirous of contesting polls of the State Bar Council.
Here are the directions issued by the bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice R Tharani:
Directions to the Bar Council of India:
The Bar Council of India is directed to:
- Consider and take a decision in the meeting to be held on 18.02.2018 with regard to Election Conduct and Eligibility Rules passed by the Special Committee, Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry by resolution no.117/2018, dated 24.01.2018.
- Consider whether it is possible to appoint a few more retired judges of High Court as observers along with Justice GM Akbar Ali, Returning Officer and the Special Committee members, so as to monitor the election effectively and to conduct the election without any problem, as the contestants are stated to be distributing money, gifts and liquor to the voters as evident from Advocate General’s letter dated 24.01.2018 addressed to Bar Council of India.
Directions to the Returning Officer:
(B) The Hon’ble Returning Officer is to
- Accept the nominations of only those candidates,
(a) who produce atleast,
(i) 10 reported judgments,
(ii) 5 contested judgments for each year in the previous five years to the election year 2018 or 25 contested judgments in toto; if they are high court practitioners, to prove their continuous practice and their contribution to the development of law;
(b) who produce atleast 5 contested judgments for each year in the preceding five years to the election year 2018 or 25 contested judgments in toto, if they are practitioners before the Subordinate Courts, to prove their continuous practice and their contribution to the development of law;
- Direct the candidates to disclose their assets, including all bank accounts of the candidates, family members and to file their income tax returns atleast for immediate five years.
- Direct the candidates to disclose criminal cases including pending Criminal cases against them and the failure to disclose the pending criminal cases should automatically debar the candidates if brought to the notice of the Returning Officer.
- Forward the names of the contestants to the Director General of Police on or before 19.02.2018 and to get a report about the antecedents of the contestants on or before 26.02.2018 and thereafter finalise the nomination papers.
- Upload all the details of the candidates in the website of Bar Council of India.
- Reject the candidatures of advocates who hold profit-making posts like MP, MLAs, government pleaders, prosecutors etc.
- Ensure that the candidates are prohibited from making advertisements by putting up posters, banners and distribution of pamphlets etc., as the voters belong to the learned and noble profession.
- Disqualify the candidates who are found to be using communal, religious, linguistic cards and indulging in money, gift, and liquor distribution to woo the voters (advocates).
- Seek the assistance of the CISF as far as polling booths on high court campuses in Chennai and Madurai are concerned, so as to deploy sufficient forces to give security from previous day of election till results are declared. The CISF shall frisk the voters and allow the persons who have identity cards.
- Nominate three senior counsels or reputed members of the Bar from outstation to each of the polling booths as observers.
- Ensure that the entire process of voting is videographed, as a precautionary measure, using two cameras, one inside each polling booth and the other outside each polling booth.
- Prohibit the voters from using electronic devices, including cellphone, during voting.
Directions to Director General of Police:
- Verify and give a report regarding antecedents of the contestants whose names have been forwarded by the Bar Council of Tamilnadu and Puducherry on or before 26.02.2018.
- Give appropriate police protection by “Armed Reserve Police” right from dispatch of the ballot papers from Chennai to all the 169 polling booths except the High Court campus in Chennai and Madurai; during the course of voting in the polling booths; bringing back the ballot boxes to Chennai and during counting of votes, till the elections are declared.
- Remove such persons/persons from the campus, if anybody creates ruckus inside or outside the polling booths and if the situation requires, to arrest them, on instructions from the observers to be appointed by Returning Officer and the Special Committee members.
- Prevent violence, malpractices, distribution of money to the voters and to arrest those distributing money and liquor bottles and give protection to the income tax officials in this regard.
- Ensure that, after the elections are over, all other persons, except a representative of the candidates leave the campus and if they refuse to do so, the police shall clear them from the campus till the polling boxes are sealed and taken away from the booths/campus.
Directions to Income Tax Department:
- Provide a special phone number, email id and fax number to receive information from all possible sources regarding the distribution of money in the Bar Council election.
- Form a separate team exclusively as already directed, for the ensuing bar council election, to prevent the distribution of money by conducting raids in the places including Court campus where the money is stated to be stashed and distributed by the candidates, their supporters and to investigate the source of income.
While passing the string of directions to various agencies, the court put down some “lingering questions for which answers have to be found:
- Why are candidates spending crores of money for Bar Council election?
- Are they spending for rendering service to the legal profession and society without any returns?
- What they are getting after getting elected?
- What are all the real sources of earning inside the Bar Council, as contestants leave no stone unturned to get elected?
- Can the regulatory body become money-spinning factory?
Justice Kirubakaran said, “Every advocate needs to introspect about the position of legal profession and shun bribery in the interest of the legal profession, society, above all justice delivery system for better days to come. If not, even God cannot save the Legal Profession”.
The court suo motu impleaded Principal Director (Investigation), Income Tax Department.
No analogy between polls to Parliamentary bodies and Bar Councils
The court said, “It is true in politics and in election to local and Parliamentary bodies as in trade as well as certain other spheres advertisement and canvassing are a normal feature. But what obtains in such cases is certainly taboo in elections to Bar Councils. What is proper in these cases is clearly improper in the case of the Bar Council. There is certainly no analogy between the two.
“Therefore, there shall be a direction prohibiting the contestants including their supporters, friends etc., from advertising or canvassing in any form in the ensuing Bar Council Election. If anybody is found to be advertising and canvassing and if the same is proved by way of a complaint, they shall be debarred from contesting the election and even if they win the elections, it can be a ground for setting aside their election”.
8th-grade dropout contesting Bar Council elections
The bench was shocked to note from a poster produced before it that one TK Sathyaseelan, who is alleged to have completed only 8th standard, was able to obtain MA Degree through open university and thereafter, secure a Law Degree and is contesting the election to Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for the post of chairman.
“It is pitiable to note that the said person does not even know that there is no election directly to the chairmanship in Bar Council. It is interesting to note that he is said to have got enrolled only in the year 2014 and within one year, he became such a “senior lawyer” to float an association in the name of “All India Advocate Federation” in the year 2015. This kind of floating advocates’ associations, for ulterior motives, is on the rise nowadays and it has to be prevented by appropriate directions,” said the bench.
The matter is now listed for March 2.Read the Order Here