Delhi High Court Bar Association Election 2013: Bar Versus Bar?

On December 13 this year, Members of Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) shall cast their vote in the elections for various candidates for separate posts. Since last 8 years I have been a member of DHCBA, I have exercised my franchise and always voted in favour of a Brother / Sister lawyer whom I trusted with the responsibility.

In last 8 years, to my knowledge, never DHCBA elections were discussed so much in Courtroom than in the High Court canteen. The sequence of litigation can be gathered from the recent order by His Honour Vipin Sanghi in a civil action by Mr. Rajiv Khosla.

The crux of the litigation is that Mr. Khosla challenged the recent amended rules of DHCBA. Briefly, the most contentious amendments, per me, are

  1. One Bar One Vote;
  2. Office bearers of any other Bar Association to be debarred from contesting for three years till demitting office of that Bar; and
  3. A lawyer must be a DHCBA Member for a period of 25 years for contesting a post of the President of DHCBA.

His Honour Sanghi disallowed interim injunction application mainly on ground of delay in approaching the Court and put the suit for trial. Mr. Khosla has already assailed the order by filing an Appeal which will also come up for hearing tomorrow.

Since the Rules and their implication are sub-judice including the arguments whether they are null and void or not, I will refrain from commenting on them. However, as a lawyer I have a point of view on the noted amendments.

One Bar One Vote: Means, as what happens in Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections, if a Member of SCBA intends to vote in the election there, she has to first give a declaration to SCBA that she will not cast her vote in any other Bar Association–including DHCBA. This principle has already been hotly contested in the Supreme Court. By casting vote in DHCBA under this proposed amendment, as I understand, it would be impossible for me to cast my vote in other Bar Association where I am Member.

Since I have 15 lawyers in my family and many lawyers friends who are also active in various Bar Associations, it will be shocking for them if I show my incompetence in voting for them in their elections–if and when this happens–when I cast my vote under One Bar One Vote rule in the DHCBA.

In addition, this rule, if it spreads in all the 6 District Court Bar Associations of Delhi gradually, can further create a divide between lawyers who are Members of multiple Bar Association at District Court levels. For example, I’m Member of Delhi Bar Association, DHCBA and SCBA–I don’t cast my vote there.

This rule might have find an approval in the Supreme Court but, I reckon, that was only in the context of litigation of SCBA rather than making it law of the land for all Bar Associations of India.

Imagine a paradox where a Lawyer approaches District Court for campaigning for DHCBA election and lawyers there are in an awkward position where casting vote in DHCBA will disqualify them for their own District Court elections.

3 Years After Demitting Office of Other Bar: This rule, though might have been adopted after much deliberation, raises only one question in my mind. If an office bearer of any other Bar Association was unaware about this rule in 2010 since it wasn’t in force, how can he be penalised for it in 2013 for no fault of her? Correct approach would have been to give a breathing period of three years from 2013 to all Bar Association office bearers for them to be enabled to be contesting for DHCBA elections. If afterwards a lawyer elects to be an office bearer somewhere, it will be his decision knowing about the disqualification.

The 25 Years Membership Embargo: Same logic as last one, as also contended by Mr. Khosla in his civil action, if he was allowed to contest in the last elections of DHCBA in which he lost by only 160 votes–there must be more Members than that at any given point of time in canteen alone–how is he disqualified to be contesting elections this time around?

I have also sought comments from my seniors from the DHCBA for their input. I hope the legal dispute is resolved at the earliest. It is really disheartening to anticipate a situation where various Bar Associations might be in conflict with each other. Productive time of lawyers should go in productive activities.

Maybe someone will like to explain to me how to come out of this predicament. As of now I have been posing this question to some senior Members of Bar but to no avail.

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