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12 BCI members to fly to DC business class in Rs 48+ lakh IBA conference attendance

DC Calling: BCI makes up for 5 years of no trips by flying biz class by the dozen
DC Calling: BCI makes up for 5 years of no trips by flying biz class by the dozen

The Bar Council of India (BCI) resolved to fly 12 of its members by business class to Washington DC this month to attend the International Bar Association’s (IBA) annual conference, which the BCI had missed for the last five years “due to inadvertent on the part of the [BCI] office”.

According to the minutes of a BCI meeting, apparently held on 23 July 2016, the BCI:

  • will pay the IBA’s annual subscription for 2016,
  • will send a delegation of 12 BCI members headed by the chairman Manan Kumar Mishra to IBA’s annual conference to be held from 18 September to 23 September, and
  • will bear the cost of registration, travel, accommodation, etc of the members, for whom the council will immediately book business class round trip tickets to Washington DC, after Mishra nominates BCI members to form part of this delegation.

According to our estimates, the expedition will cost the BCI at least Rs 50 lakh including air fare, conference registration costs, but excluding at least five days of hotel and other expenses.

The cheapest direct business class round trip between Delhi and Washington DC around two months from now, would cost at least Rs 2.1 lakh per person (totalling Rs 25.2 lakh for 12 tickets). The registration fee for the IBA’s September 2016 conference is $2,905 per member (working out to Rs 23.2 lakh for 12), if the registration was done before 6 September.

The BCI’s resolution states:

As per the provisions of Section 7-A of the Advocates Act 1961, office is directed to pay annual subscription for International Bar Association for the year 2016. It is further resolved that due to inadvertent on the part of the office neither the Hon’ble Chairman or any other Member representative could attend the meeting of IBA for the last 5 years.

The Council resolves that 12 Members headed by the Hon’ble Chairman will attend the annual conference/meeting to be held at Washington DC from 18 to 23 September, 2016 for which the Council has received the invitation.

The cost of registration, travel, accommodation, etc. shall be borne by the Council. The office is to take immediate steps for booking the to and fro tickets in Business class after getting the approval of the Hon’ble Chairman with regard to Member-delegate and accompanying members who are to attend the conference.

Section 7-A of the Advocates Act allows the BCI to become a member of international legal bodies such as the IBA, and provides that the costs involved with related participation shall be borne out of its funds. The section states:

7A. Membership in international bodies.—The Bar Council of India may become a member of international legal bodies such as the International Bar Association or the International Legal Aid Association, contribute such sums as it thinks fit to such bodies by way of subscription or otherwise and authorise expenditure on the participation of its representatives in any international legal conference or seminar.

We have reached out to Mishra for comment by email this morning but have not received a response.

The IBA, according to its website, is a 69 year old organisation of 80,000 individual lawyers and more than 190 bar associations and law societies from over 160 countries, that “influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world”.

Its bar association membership lets member associations nominate three representatives to become IBA members, and participate in activities such as sharing information with bar associations globally, vote on resolutions that can affect the profession worldwide, receive IBA support against undue pressure by authorities and enhance the education of its own association’s lawyers, states the IBA’s website.

2015 RTI suggested no BCI member has ever gone abroad

In November 2015 Legally India had asked the BCI, through a Right to Information request, for a list of trips taken by its members using BCI funds since October 2014.

BCI joint secretary and public information officer Ashok Kumar Pandey had replied: “No foreign trip has ever been taken by any of the Bar Council of India Member. Therefore, there is no question of any use of Bar Council of India fund.”

RTI response from 2015
RTI response from 2015

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