An open letter and a call to action to the Bar Council of Delhi


The Bar Council of Delhi
New Delhi

What we have witnessed in the last few days, the incidents concerning the students of JNU and the scuffle outside the hallowed corridors of our court rooms in Delhi, will leave a stain upon the legal fraternity like no other single event or incident in the history of our country as an independent nation.

Lawyers had not only played a pivotal role in the struggle for independence of our country, but also shaped the very Constitution that forms the fabric of our democracy. Our democracy is like no other.

Unlike the United Kingdom, where the Parliament is supreme, in our nation that role is played by the Constitution. The Constitution takes precedence over all three wings of our government — the executive, the parliament and the judiciary, with the Supreme Court as the final interpreter of our Constitution.

There is a Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times” and we do live in interesting times indeed. The events that transpired at the JNU campus in New Delhi and thereafter in the Patiala House District Court Complex will be seen by future generations as “dark days for our Constitution”, just as we now view the emergency.

I am neither concerned with the politics of the incident, nor the rationale behind the charges levelled, and whether such activities are considered as anti-national or not. I still have full faith in the judicial process and I will leave such disputed questions of fact to be decided in the Court of law instead of subscribing to a trial by media, when we have presumed certain persons to be guilty before they are found to be so by a fair trial.

I am a practicing advocate in Delhi and I frequent District courts and I am concerned with the image lawyers will have after these incidents have been televised on national television for all to see. The practice of law and the image of our profession has debased remarkably from its past colonial glory when we had the likes of MK Gandhi, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai, C Rajagopalachari, Dr BR Ambedkar, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak just to name a few. They were all eminent lawyers fighting for the freedom of our nation in their own different ways with their own differing opinions and ideologies.

The Supreme Court of our land had stated in the case of the Supreme Court Bar Association versus the Union of India, that the Bar Council, which performs a public duty, is charged with the obligation to protect the dignity of the profession and to maintain the professional standards and etiquette which every advocate must subscribe to. An advocate is not an ordinary member of the public and I would still like to believe in the sanctity of our profession and that such persons who took part in the incidents that transpired in Patiala House were not in fact advocates.

I therefore, most humbly, call upon the Bar Council of Delhi to initiate a suo-moto enquiry and especially to look in to whether these persons were in fact enrolled as advocates with the Bar. We are all, as advocates, comrades in arms. We cannot allow such a disservice to our profession go unnoticed, much less un-enquired.

I hope that my fellow members of the Bar will agree that at a time like this, we must rise above the politics of the state of affairs. We are not just advocates, in fact, we have the privilege of practicing in the very capital of our country, the very same capital where we have not just our Parliament but also the Supreme Court, the protector of our constitution and the very fabric of our democracy.

We have an opportunity to rewrite history and I hope when future generations read of these events in their history books, they will remember us in the same manner we remember the lawyers who fought for our freedom.

Dhruv Banerji

The author is a practicing advocate in New Delhi and can be reached through his website.

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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2016 17:06:32 IST

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