Madras HC says Bar Association polls are tainted; issues guidelines
The court listed election of non-practising advocates with tainted backgrounds to the association/bar councils as one of the malice infecting the system.
The Madras high court on Tuesday said that the “election process in our country has become a mockery” due to malpractices while disposing a writ petition on the conduct of the Salem Bar elections and issued a slew of directions to the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to guard against monopoly.
“Elections to Advocates Associations or Bar Councils are no different from general election to legislature in which invariably, to woo the electorate, communal, religious, political cards etc., are played; Money power is exhibited; Liquor is generously offered,” the court said.
“Sadly, our bar leaders are not properly elected by following democratic processes, without any malpractices. Present members of the so-called ‘noble profession’ are readily selling their votes for ‘money, liquor, foreign tours’, etc. This is the practise in almost every election for association or Bar Council. One bar association election is the subject matter of this case,” the court added.
The court said that such activities paved the way “for election of non-practising advocates with tainted backgrounds to the association/bar councils.” In its direction, the court barred elected candidates from contesting for a second consecutive election but allowed them to contest in alternative elections.
“As followed...Madras High Court Advocate Association and Madras Bar Association, two very old Associations of India, it is appropriate to permit the elected office bearers to contest the election in the alternate elections, so that the democratic character would be given to the election process, thereby, avoiding monopoly by the elected office bearers being elected continuously,” the court said. It also restricted elected office bearers from printing photographs on calendars. The statutory norm of one bar one vote should be followed across the country’s bar associations as per a judgement in the case of Supreme Court Bar Association versus BD Kaushik, it said.
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The court said that its intervention in the internal matters of bar associations which are "nowadays formed on communal and political basis" was important so that the administration of justice isn’t affected “because of the election of non-practising advocates, advocates with tainted background and inexperienced lawyers, who, invariably, call for boycotts affecting the justice delivery system and eroding the faith of the general public in Courts.” The court stated that it receives complaints of elected ‘disgruntled elements’ threatening and blackmailing subordinate judicial officers. “These are all the realities in the Lower Courts and this Court cannot lose sight of the same,” it said.
The Salem Bar Association elections have faced several allegations such as elected members contesting successively and inclusion of outsiders in the voters list. The court appointed retired district judge Venugopal as a neutral election officer along with S D Manivasagam (appointed as the election officer in 2018) to conduct the election of the office bearers to Salem Bar Association before April 26. The matter was posted for reporting compliance on April 29.