In a notable order, the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday directed Hubli Commissioner of Police to provide police protection to advocates who wish to appear for 3 Kashmiri students arrested on charges of sedition.
The Court passed the order in a petition which challenged the resolution passed by Hubli Bar Association that none of its members would offer legal representation to these students
During the hearing, Chief Justice Abhay Oka, heading the bench, orally observed "By passing the resolution they are stopping court work. Are they carrying out a mini trial by themselves? This act has to be deprecated?".
The Court also said that if the Bar Association doesn't reconsider the resolution, it will be constrained to examine its legality.
The bench said "We wequest the respondent no. 4 (Bar Association) to reconsider the resolution passed as it appears to be ex-facie, against the mandate of law. The 4th respondent may take necessary action as it is bound by Constitutional Mandate and its members are bound to follow ethics, in the rules framed by the Bar Council of India. If the 4th respondent refuses to reconsider, we will have to consider the legallity of the resolution on the next date of hearing."
Three Kashmiri origin students studying engineering in Hubli were arrested on a case registered for sedition over alleged slogans raised in support of Pakistan.
On Monday, the Hubli Bar Association, having over 1600 members, passed the resolution, stating that the accused did not deserve legal representation as they have indulged in "anti-national" activities.
Challenging the resolution, a group of 24 advocates approached the High Court stating that Bar Association cannot deprive an accused of his fundamental right to seek legal aid.
The petition stated that the said resolution has resulted in the creation of an atmosphere of fear and intimidation due to which none of the Advocates feel safe and secure to appear before the Court and that the same had a "chilling effect" on advocates coming forward to represent the accused.
Collective refusal by a bar association to deny legal representation to accused was contrary to Constitutional obligations and professional ethics of an advocate, the plea stated.
Earlier, the Mysuru Bar Association had also passed a similar resolution against legal representation to a student, who was booked for sedition for holding a "Free Kashmir" placard.
That student was released on bail later, after several other advocates from different parts of Karnataka came together to represent her.
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