31 July 2021 7:28 AM GMT
The Madras High Court on Friday stayed the Madras Bar Association (MBA) elections that was scheduled to be held on August 21.A Bench comprising Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice R Pongiappan issued the interim order on the ground that the Bar Association had failed to verify the certificate of practice of its individual members with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP)...
The Madras High Court on Friday stayed the Madras Bar Association (MBA) elections that was scheduled to be held on August 21.
A Bench comprising Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice R Pongiappan issued the interim order on the ground that the Bar Association had failed to verify the certificate of practice of its individual members with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP) before finalising the voter's list.
The Court was adjudicating upon a writ petition filed by an advocate who had prayed before the Court to stay the election notification dated July 14 by citing that due to the ongoing Covi-19 pandemic, many MBA members had failed to pay the required subscription fee.
"When the Bar Association itself is closed from 25.3.2020 till date and not open to the members, it is highly uncharitable to direct the members to pay the subscription running to several thousand of rupees in the pandemic situation", the petitioner contended. Further it was submitted that directing the members to pay the subscription fees amidst a pandemic is certainly arbitrary and has been done on purpose to avoid large number of members to vote in the election.
On June 25, 2021, the MBA had called on members to pay the subscription fee for the year ending March 31, 2021 before June 30,2021, failing which the members who have not paid the arrears would not be allowed to vote for the elections.
It was pointed out to the Court that only 776 members had been able to pay the subscription fees and were therefore eligible to vote. This is in sharp contrast to the total strength of the MBA which consists of 1280 members, the plea stated.
"From the above it is clear that more than 45% of the members have been denied their voting rights by the arbitrary exercise of the posers of the 2nd respondent (MBA, represented by its Ad-Hoc Committee) who are holding the post only for 4 months", the petitioner added.
It was further contended that the Bar Association being an organisation meant for the welfare of the lawyers should stand as an example in the present pandemic situation instead of rushing to conduct the election for the year 2021-2023 in a hurried manner.
Thus, the petitioner prayed for a stay on the elections on the following grounds- i) no proper publication of the list of members which was registered under the Societies Act ii) no intimation made to the Registrar of Societies before conducting the election iii) the payment of subscription for the previous year in the pandemic situation for full members to exercise their voting rights in highly arbitrary and discriminatory in nature especially full members have been prevented from voting in the election vi) More than 50 percent of the members of the Madras Bar Association are senior citizens and as advised by the Government the senior citizens are advised not to leave their residence till the pandemic is solely eradicated.
The petition had also alleged that "there are certain vested interest in the Bar Association who wanted to conduct physical voting in the pandemic situation by preventing more than 45% members from exercising their franchise on the sole ground that they have not paid the subscription for the previous yearning 31.3.2021 before 7.7.2021."
When the Bar Association itself has not been opened for over a year, the Association should not insist on payment of subscription fee from its members that too when the pandemic situation is continuing and most of the lawyers have lost their earning affecting their livelihood, the petitioner submitted.
Case Title: L. Chandrakumar v. The Registrar of Societies
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