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BCI waxes 'patriotic', part-excuses 'true citizen' thug lawyers beating up JNU 'unlawful assembly'

Mishra: ‘Attention of entire country’ diverted from ‘anti-nationalism’ to advocates and the bar
Mishra: ‘Attention of entire country’ diverted from ‘anti-nationalism’ to advocates and the bar

The Bar Council of India (BCI) told the Supreme Court today that it unanimously agreed that advocates’ alleged assault of journalists and senior advocates outside of Patiala House district court last week was “really shameful” and a “very unfortunate... incident” that should not be tolerated, according to its affidavit published by Live Law, but that those attacks should be dealt with separately from the alleged attacks on the ‘unlawful assembly’ of JNU students who “need[ed] to be opposed strongly” and “strongly condemned”.

Some BCI members appeared to counsel leniency according to the affidavit, first published in full by Live Law (see below):

Some of the members were of the view that the conduct of the lawyers should be examined in the light of the background of the unfortunate incidents which took place in the [JNU] as well as Jadavpur University (West Bengal).

And because those incidents are more graver in nature and very dangerous for the country, the incidents of Patiala House Court complex might be the outcome of the reaction.

[A SENTENCE APPARENTLY REDACTED HERE IN THE COPY OF THE MINUTES WITH CORRECTING FLUID]

However, the excess committed, if any, by any Advocate cannot be overlooked.

The allegations of attacks against the students might not have to be considered by any BCI inquiry, as opposed to the alleged attacks by lawyers against journalists, suggested the members according to the resolution:

...part of act of some Lawyers in manhandling some of the media people should be considered separately and if at all, it is proved, can be segregated from other part of the occurrence [the alleged assault of students] and the Committee constituted for this purpose may examine as to who are involved in the incidents of marpit/quarrel or manhandling of the journalists/media people.

‘Any true citizen must react strongly to JNU students’: BCI chair

BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said in his order of 17 February, excerpts of which were first published by Bar & Bench, that “the manhandling and beating of media people and Mr Kanhaiya Kumar by the Lawyers and other outsiders in the court premises is really very sad” but condemned the JNU students’ alleged actions in his order, which was later ratified by the council, with the following words

“Any true citizen or lawyer of India is supposed to strongly react to slogans like Pakistan Zindabad, Hindustan Murdabad, India go back, Pakistan long live etc,” wrote Mishra, adding that “such acts of anybody always deserve to be strongly condemned and need to be opposed strongly”.

However, his order added that such opposition by lawyers should happen in “decent” and “legal ways and not by indecent methods like the alleged incident”.

On 15 February and again on 17 February, advocates outside Patiala House were alleged to have violently assaulted JNU students and journalists attending the court appearance of JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who had been arrested on charges of sedition for making speeches on campus.

In Mishra’s order dated 15 February, which was also ratified by the council, he suggested setting up an inquiry committee headed by retired Patna high court chief justice L Narasimha Reddy, and including BCI vice-chairman S Prabhakaran, and senior advocate and former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president MN Krishnamani, subject to the Supreme Court’s agreement.

Mishra had written on 15 February:

The unlawful assembly of the people from Jawaharlal Nehru University also included few lawyers in their court dresses, not only they are seen shouting slogans in the court premises, but they are also indulging in manhandling journalists. The role of such lawyers is really shameful and the incident is very unfortunate..

All the members of the Bar Council of India were of the opinion that whatever might have been the situation or the reason behind the incident, we cannot ignore and tolerate such misconduct on the part of advocates...

Mishra and the council expressed themselves unequivocally in condemning the lawyers’ alleged violence in respect of:

  • “media is one of the strong pillar and therefore any attempt on media by anybody cannot be tolerated”,
  • “the height of the issue” is that “a handful of lawyers have gone to the extent of abusing the senior and respectable members of the Bar. These disgruntled and unruly advocates have downgraded the dignity and decorum of the legal profession. Shouting of slogans, use of abusive languages against the members of the team appointed by SC and the alleged act of pelting stones on their vehicles is a very serious misconduct which the Bar Council of India is not going to tolerate.”

However, Mishra appeared most unsettled that the advocates’ alleged assault distracted media attention from the issue until then of ‘anti-national’ students.

Mishra wrote on 17 February:

Because of this misconduct of only handful lawyers of the Patiala House Courts, the image of the legal fraternity throughout the country has been maligned.

What I feel is that the attention of the whole country has been diverted from the main issue and the serious incident in [JNU] and Jadhavpur University towards the class of Advocates.

Some of the media have branded these lawyers as goons in balck courts (sic). Uptil now, the media and people were examining and analyzing the role of anti-national students, teachers and the role of politicians, but these handful of Lawyers have diverted the attention of the entire country towards the role of Advocates and the Bar.

Even the apex court was compelled to intervene in the matter.

Full disclosure

Bar & Bench court reporter Murali Krishnan tweeted:

BCI Chairman confused forever: Refuses to give me affidavit copy confusing Bar & Bench for a rival. Later hands it over.

"Sab ulta liktha hai...nahin de do”, he said first with his junior giggling away.

("they write everything the opposite of what it is so don’t give it to them")

We can only assume that the chairman was referring to Legally India, having last year sent us a legal notice threatening legal action over documents obtained by Legally India from the BCI under RTI, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the BCI’s All India Bar Exam (AIBE) tender process.

Read full affidavit by BCI via Live Law (PDF)

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