The Madhya Pradesh High Court has ruled that State Bar Councils cannot interfere with the election process or election of a Bar Association.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla ruled, "From a bare reading of the various provisions of the Act (Advocates Act, 1961) it is graphically clear that there is no provision either under the Act or under the Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1982 [hereinafter referred to as `the Act 1982’] to interfere with the elections conducted by the Bar Associations. The said Act 1982 requires recognition of Bar Association for the purpose of admitting the Members of the Bar Association for grant of welfare fund to them.
The provision of the Act 1982 empowers the Bar Council to give such directions, as are necessary for carrying out the purpose of Act. Object of the said Act is to constitute a welfare fund for benefit of the advocates, cessation of practice, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The only purpose of the said Act is to provide succor to advocates who cease to practice or advocates who suffer from any disability or who die. The said Act nowhere confers the power to the State Bar Council to have control or to supervise the election affairs of a Bar Association."
The Court was hearing two Writ Petitions, one filed by the District Bar Association in Bhind and the other filed by the Guna District Bar Association. The first Petition had challenged a decision passed by the Appellate Committee of the State Bar Council, which had set aside the election of a Bar Association candidate through suo motu proceedings.
The Petition by the Guna District Bar Association had challenged its dissolution by the Appellate Committee of the State Bar Council and the direction to the Officiating Secretary of the Council to appoint an adhoc committee. This was done after directing the Bar Association to submit records as regards suspension of the membership of an advocate and to furnish the income and expense details pertaining to the Bar Association election. It had now contended that the State Bar Council had no authority to interfere with its internal affairs.
The State Bar Council had contested these Petitions, contending that Bar Associations are under their "direct disciplinary control" and that Bar Associations have no power to suspend membership of any Advocate without assigning reasons and without informing the State Bar Council.
It had further relied on the decision in the case of Supreme Court Bar Association and others vs. B.D. Kaushik, (2011) 13 SCC 774, to contend that while applying the principle of `one bar one vote’, the State Bar Council has been conferred with the power to supervise the elections of Bar Associations.
The Court, however, noted that the judgment in the case of B.D. Kaushik did not hold that the Bar Council shall have power to interfere with elections of Bar Associations. It further opined that the State Bar Council had failed to bring to its notice any provision that empowered the Council to interfere with the internal affairs of Bar Associations.
It then relied on a decision rendered by a Co-ordinate Bench of the Court in R.N. Tiwari vs. State Bar Council of M.P. and others, AIR 1995 MP 137, wherein it was held that the Bar Council has no authority to stay the election process or to interfere with the election affairs of a Bar Association.
The Court, therefore, allowed the Petitions ruling, "In view of consideration of the statutory provisions of the Act and the Advocates Welfare Fund Act, we do not find any provision conferring the power on the State Bar Council to interfere with the election process or with the election of a Bar Association."