SC Takes Up Multiple Petitions Relating To Bar Council Elections
On Wednesday, the petition by advocate Ajayinder Sangwan regarding the participation of advocates in state bar council elections pending the completion of verification under the Bar Council of India (certificate and place of verification) Rules of 2015 came up for hearing before the Supreme Court bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice AM Sapre.
Senior counsel Rajiv Dutta, appearing on behalf of the BCI, submitted, “We are placing on record the minutes of the meeting of the BCI dated January 21 regarding the steps to be taken in respect of bar council elections of all states.”
Elaborating on the same, Dutta advanced, “The BCI has constituted 3 committees to be headed by retired Chief Justices of high courts. Each committee has been allocated states to sort any discrepancies that might be there. The first committee is headed by a former Chief Justice of Jharkhand, the second committee is under the chairmanship of retired Justice Narsimha Reddy, set up to oversee the bar councils of Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, and the third committee is under retired Justice SK Mukherjee, former Chief Justice of Karnataka, to supervise elections in Jharkhand, Bihar etc.”
Further, the senior counsel also placed on record the schedule for elections for all states. The reports of the various state bar councils were also placed on record. Dutta drew the attention of the bench to the concerns of the Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh to conduct elections as per the stipulated schedule on account of its bifurcation creating the state of Telangana.
Senior counsel Pallav Sisodia, representing the Bar Council of Kerala, submitted, “We had commenced the election process from January 16. Then the BCI said since its permission had not been sought in respect of the schedule of elections, we would have to keep the process in abeyance. Now March 25 has been fixed as the date for the election which is a local holiday. Our prayer for the elections to be preponed to March 18.”
Senior counsel V Giri also reiterated the same concerns on behalf of the Bar Council of Kerala.
In response, Dutta retorted, “These prayers are not on behalf of the Bar Council of Kerala but for persons who desire to be elected. The BCI has already declared the schedule for the elections. If there is a genuine grievance, the committees constitutes by the BCI may be approached. As far as I know, elections in Kerala have always been conducted on a holiday. Further, the request for a change of date of every bar council cannot be accommodated. My only request is to please let this go ahead.”
Senior advocate Mahabir Singh submitted, “On the basis of a letter of the Advocate-General of Tamil Nadu, who is the ex officio chairman of the Bar Council of the state, a writ petition has been filed before the Madras High Court for the appointment of a court commissioner or a committee of retired Supreme Court or high court judges to oversee the conduct of the Tamil Nadu Bar Council elections. Even the concerned High Court judge has expressed his support for such a committee, but on account of the present matter, deemed it fit that a clarification be sought from the apex court. Although BCI committees have been set up, there is a general lack of faith in their sincerity.”
To this prayer, the bench replied, “People will say what they have to. The committees constituted by the BCI are sufficient.”
On behalf of the Bar Council of Rajasthan, prayer was made to extend the date stipulated for the election to March 28 on account of intervening court holidays.
The advocate appearing for four advocates enrolled in Maharashtra and practicing at the apex court advanced the prayer for the establishment of a polling booth in New Delhi within the Supreme Court premises to allow lawyers practicing at the apex court to vote in the elections of their respective state bar councils. The 2015 BCI resolution to this effect was also produced before the bench.
Another advocate prayed that the Bar Council for Maharashtra and Goa be directed to upload online the mobile numbers and email IDs of the candidates to facilitate their access to the electorate. “The outgoing members have fiduciary control over the data,” he submitted. The bench responded that in the earlier days, elections were conducted even without the aid of mobile phones.
A direction by the Supreme Court to impose a limit on the expenditure incurred in the elections and to require the returns of the expenditure to be filed before itself was another relief prayed for.
The bench reserved its order in respect of the above. Further, two SLPs concerning the non approval of candidature have been listed for hearing on Monday.