The Hubli Bar Association today withdrew the controversial Resolution dated February 15, which had stated that none of its members would represent the three Kashmiri students arrested on charges of sedition. The students had allegedly posted a pro-Pakistan video on social media.
The withdrawal came in light of observations made by Chief Justice Abhay Oka of the Karnataka High Court while hearing a plea challenging the Resolution.
"If lawyers don't protect Article 22 (1) of the Constitution of India, if they don't protect the accused by representing them, who will then protect the legal system?" said the Bench.
Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi appearing on behalf of the Association submitted a modified resolution dated February 24.
However, the bench led by Chief Justice Oka insisted that the association withdraw the earlier Resolution and pass a fresh one.
Taking note of the same, Navadgi said "I have instruction from the office bearers who are present in the court room, that the resolution passed earlier would be withdrawn."
Subsequently Justice Oka stated that now that the illegal resolution had been withdrawn, the office bearers of the association must take the responsibility of ensuring that no outwardly incident happens with the advocate(s) wishing to appear for the arrested accused.
"We hope the situation which was created will not be created. If the situation is created under which accused is not represented by member of the bar, It will affect the entire judicial system of the state. Therefore we are of the view that constitutional rights of the accused should be respected", the Bench remarked.
At this juncture, Navadgi added that at Hubli, the advocates desirous of appearing for the accused were welcomed and were even "offered tea".
In light of this, the Bench stated that even though it was sure of the righteous approach adopted by the bar, the police protection to the advocates who wished to appear before the Dharwad court must continue.
The bench further warned that if advocates are found protesting or raising slogans in court precincts, the "police should collect their names and submit a report to the court, based on which the high court may issue criminal contempt against each of the protesting advocates"
24 advocates, challenged the resolution passed by the Hubli Bar Association after an alleged incident on Monday, February 24, filed a PIL, wherein advocate Maitreyi Krishnan and others, visited the District Court in Dharwad, to file bail application(s) for the accused.
Krishnan and other advocates present depicted that there was a protest at the entrance of Court and the DCP (Law and Order) and other police officials had escorted them out of court with great difficulty.
It was further highlighted that,
"The lawyers were shouting, abusing and pushing us. They, could not go to the registration/filing counter and were taken back to their vehicle.
Someone threw stones from behind when the three of them and the driver were inside the car, breaking the back window, and the stones came inside the car."
In light of the above, Advocate BT Venkatesh filed a Petition on behalf of a group of lawyers which averred that,
"The Petitioner's are all advocates practicing within the State of Karnataka. They are filing this petition as a public interest litigation, as the issues involved in this petition affect the right of legal representation of accused and the dignity of the legal profession. The issues raised herein affect the larger public interest and the fundamental right to all persons to legal representation"
On Wednesday, the court while being informed about the advocates being prevented from filing bail applications on behalf of the accused in Dharwad Court the preceding week, had termed the said act of the protesting as "Sheer Militancy".
Today, Justice Oka observed,
"We hope and trust that in view of the assurance given by office bearers of the bar association, there will not be repetition of the incident that occurred earlier. Advocates wishing to appear for the accused will be permitted entry inside the court room and members of the bar will ensure that situation in court is normal as it is everyday. Many bail applications are filed in court everyday. The bail application filed in this case, is looked upon as a normal bail application. Situation is remedied to a larger extent by resolution of February 24. We are of the view that situation will be remedied further if a senior advocate from the local bar association comes forward to represent the accused."
The court also directed the Prison authorities to allow the advocates to take signatures of the accused on the bail applications.
The Court will further hear the matter on March 6.