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Nearly 50% of Karnataka lawyers struck off voter rolls, as 4-year-late bar council elections now on schedule, hopefully

Karnataka bar council acting chairman Jagadeesh CM says state almost ready for elections
Karnataka bar council acting chairman Jagadeesh CM says state almost ready for elections

The Karnataka bar council's elections that are nearly four years overdue will see only up to 43,566 advocates voting, despite the number of enrolled advocates in the state having gone up by almost 15% since its last elections.

More than 85,000 advocates were enrolled on Karnataka's state rolls as on date, Karnataka state bar council (SBC) chairman Jagadeesh CM (pictured) told us today, though nearly half of those did not submit their verification documents as part of state bar councils' initiative to clean up their rolls.

In 2013 there were 74,032 total advocates in Karnataka, according to a Right to Information (RTI) response we had reported on that year.

Mysore-based Jagadeesh CM was the last chairman to be voted in unanimously by the executive members of the SBC, to take over the helm of the Karnataka bar council from August 2016 to March 2017, after which the SBC has been run by a “special committee”, he explained.

Contested elections have not taken place in the state since 2014, when the term of the last elected chairman CR Gopalaswamy had come to an end. Thereafter, various SBC members were voted in as chairmen unanimously, every six months.

The SBC has a final electoral roll that it would be submitting to the Bar Council of India (BCI) by 2 February 2018, for the BCI to announce bar elections in the state.

CM said that only those advocates who are allowed to practise before courts in Karnataka - those who had filed their applications for obtaining the Certificate of Practice (CoP), including declaration forms for advocates enrolled after July 2010 - would be allowed to vote in the Karnataka SBC elections.

This leaves out advocates who are enrolled on the state roll but are not allowed to practise.

The last date for submitting CoP applications and declaration forms to the SBC was 30 November 2017, he said. The lawyer verification drive is still continuing in Karnataka, he added, but the final list of voters stands at approximately 43,566.

The SBC is required to provide postal address details for each voter on its electoral roll, and this process is delaying the submission of the roll to the BCI, explained CM.

Until the last bar election in Karnataka, the voter demographic included practising as well as enrolled but non-practising advocates. However, the SBC's intent has been to weed out the non-practising bar according to the statement of objects and reasons published in Karnataka's Certificate of Practice and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules 2015 which note:

many persons, after getting enrolled as Advocates in any State Bar Council get involve in Property-Dealings, contract or switch over-to some other business, profession or job and have no more concern with the Legal profession. Such “non-practicing Advocates” are sometimes being used by some of the office­bearers/candidates for elections of Bar Associations or Bar Councils (Only for their, votes). But in fact, the Council has realized that such practice is degrading the standard of Legal profession and this mal-practice has to be-stopped.

In order to maintain the dignity and standard of Legal profession, we shall have to oust fake people from the court-campus and we shall have to identify the “non-practicing Advocates”, (who are involved in other job, business or profession). We are to ensure that such Advocates do not involve in deciding the fate of our Associations and the Bar Councils

Jagadeesh CM said that “due to confusion in the minds of advocates” about whether the Supreme Court will uphold or strike down the CoP rules, some practising lawyers did not submit their CoP applications by the SBC's deadline and were consequently left out of the voter list this time.

As we reported earlier this week, the Maharashtra and Goa bar council has yet to finalise its electoral roll but has 1.11 lakh verified advocates on its state rolls, having removed 76,000 after its verification drive.

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