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Advocates, Nalsar, NUJS law grads secure wins in Swami Nityananda scandal aftermath, despite bar exam

Supreme Court advocate K V Dhananjay along with a group of practising 2010 law graduates from Nalsar and NUJS have secured a three-pronged victory for godman Swami Nityananda, including restoring his passport that was impounded following his arrest after an alleged sex scandal involvement in April, and securing an injunction against the publication of a book and a police order.

The lawyers said they won a restraining order in favour of the swami in a copyright infringement suit and received assurance from the Karnataka police that cognizable offences are made-out against the godman’s driver K Lenin who had allegedly recorded and circulated obscene videos of swami and south Indian actress Ranjitha.

Advocate Shagun Parashar and this year's law graduates Fatehpal Singh, Dhruv Pal and Aditya Swarup from Nalsar Hyderabad and Priyanka Rao from NUJS Kolkata formed a team to assist Dhananjay after they signed the terms of engagement for a scholarly assignment. In particular they conducted research, assisted in drafting and made representations before the police.

Except for Parashar the rest of team members passed out this year but it is not clear whether the rules surrounding the proposed bar exam would restrict them from working in courts.

Singh argued that he believed he was practising law in these cases, having signed a vakalatnama in his name and appearing in court  as an advocate, despite not having passed the bar exam.

Singh told Legally India: "We got our provisional degrees on 25 May and on 2 June I got enrolled with the state bar council. The BCI notification [to hold a bar exam] was issued on 12 June. I had filed a writ in Punjab and Haryana High Court also."

Between 2 June and 12 of June he was practising in the courts and he had received no notice that the introduction of the bar exam had retrospectively revoked his right to practice, he said.

"It’s unfair to suddenly take away my right to wear a band and robe and be told to sit at home," Singh added, noting that no subordinate legislation could take away his right to practice granted by a statute such as the Advocates Act without the necessary amendment to the act.

Singh said that Dhananjay got in touch with him to potentially assist on the Nityananda case while Singh was challenging the Bar Council of India's (BCI) proposed bar exam in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in late June.

The passport officer in Bangalore had impounded Nityananda’s passport on the directions of the Karnataka Director General of Police following a police complaint by his driver. Police arrested the swami without giving him an adequate time to respond, according to counsel Dhananjay.

He stated that the passport authorities relied on Section 10(3)(e) of the Passports Act 1967 in doing so, which was subsequently challenged in appeal before the appellate authorities in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) by the former lawyers of Nityananda.

This was followed by additional arguments Dhananjay advanced recently before the MEA authorities.   

Some of the main grounds taken were: "The right to travel is a fundamental right and the right to travel abroad is an extremely important right conferred to a citizen of India; The Police cannot decide on whether a person's passport should be impounded; only officers under the Passports Act can do so;

"Section 10(3)(e) speaks of a 'pending proceeding' in a criminal court in India; all that has happened in Nithyananda Swamy's case is that the Police have filed their FIR and investigation is proceeding; no 'criminal proceeding' has been initiated against Nithyananda Swamy by any Court of law in India."       

K V Dhananjay told Legally India that he only became fully involved in the Nityananda case around two weeks ago.

"This case sets a precedent because the passport authorities decided upon appeal within a short-time while acting in realisation of the fact that it’s the satisfaction reached by a court of law and not the police that governs whether the passport can be impounded only on the basis of the first information report, without the commencement of judicial proceedings."   

He said that being a constitution lawyer his focus would be to preserve the constitutional rights of his client and criminal case would hold no ground as no one was victimised in this case.  

According to Singh, Parashar, Singh and Pal also led and successfully won an injunction in a copyright suit against the author H D Hegde, the cover of whose book ‘Kami Swami’ featured Nityananda’s allegedly copyrighted picture.

The copyright matter was taken up before the district judge Hunu Gund of the Ramanagar court in Karnataka.

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