Bengaluru: In a stinging comment, the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday labelled a lawyers' association in Mysuru as unprofessional.
The observation came up on a petition challenging the lawyers' body's decision barring its members from representing Nalini Balakumar, a woman charged with sedition for holding a 'Free Kashmir' placard during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Mysuru University last year.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Oka said: "Is it not unprofessional on the part of the lawyers to issue such a resolution? The Supreme Court has said this... Should you (KSBC) not take action against such lawyers. Look at the resolution, some member of the Bar has signed this...Bar Council must be proactive. These are societies of lawyers," Bar and Bench reported.
It is alleged that the Mysuru Bar Association passed the resolution restricting lawyers from appearing on behalf of Nalini, but it was later alleged that the Mysore City Advocates Multipurpose Cooperative Society passed the resolution.
The High Court wondered if notices were issued to the Mysore City Advocates Multipurpose Cooperative Society. To this the Mysuru District Bar Association said that the society had responded saying it had not passed the resolution. The Mysuru Bar Association and the Karnataka State Bar Council (KSBC) are respondents in the case.
In January 2020, Nalini held a placard that read ‘Free Kashmir’ at an anti-CAA protest at Mysuru University. The police picked her up and a sedition case was filed against her and the organiser of the protest. Three weeks after the protest, Nalini was granted anticipatory bail by a Mysuru court after her lawyers argued that she was not propagating a separatist ideology. Her case is still pending and will be heard in the High Court next.
Petitioner Ramesh Naik said a similar incident had happened in Hubballi in the sedition case against three Kashmiri students. “My concern is that the rights of lawyers should be protected and KSBC's silence on the matter turned the situation in Nalini's case unpleasant and harmful. There should be no politicisation and lawyers should be allowed to represent a common person to get justice," Naik told the media. The right to practice law is a Constitutional right, he added.
In February 2020, just a month after the Nalini Balakumar incident, the Hubballi Bar Association passed a resolution denying representation to the three Kashmiri students who were booked for sedition. Labelling their actions ‘anti-national’, the resolution added that their decision has been communicated with the Karnataka State Bar Council and urged all lawyers in the state not to represent them.
The Karnataka High Court later reprimanded the Hubballi Bar Association and stated that its resolution went against the principles of natural justice and the rights of the accused of obtaining a defence.