Lawyers in Kashmir caught in a Dilemma

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If you are a Kashmir Bar Association member and fight the Assembly or parliament election, you could lose the Bar membership and also be denied the allotment of a chamber in High Court. The reason is that you violate the United Nations Resolution on Kashmir which KBA strictly adheres to. When the advocates Manzoor Ahmad Ganaie and  Nazir Ahmad Malik fought the just concluded Assembly election, the KBA promptly expelled them from its membership and denied them the allotment of a chamber in a new building at the High Court. The lawyers had violated the KBA constitution which states that since holding state elections in J&K are not permissible under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 51 and 57, any of its member who contests the polls violates the constitution and thus ceases to be the Bar member.

 This has resulted in a court case. Ganaie and Malik have challenged the denial of the allotment  of the chambers in the High Court.“Bar Association has no locus standi to distribute the chambers which are the property of Government of J&K Kashmir and High Court,” said Ganaie, who unsuccessfully contested the Assembly election on Congress ticket from South Kashmir constituency of Bijbehara. The chambers were constructed by Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation and they are yet handed over to Government or High Court much less to Bar association”.

 However KBA has stood its ground. “We have placed all the resolutions of Security Council of United Nations on record. Holding of election in Jammu and Kashmir is not permissible in-terms of those resolutions,” KBA president Mian Abdul Qayoom argued before the bench of the High Court. “If even you go for any elections, it is specifically written in the resolutions that it will not have any bearing on the status of the Kashmir issue”. Mian Qayoom said that it was the stated policy of Bar “ to work for the resolution of Kashmir dispute rather than take part in the elections”.

 However, in response the Advocate Shabnum Gani Lone took exception to Mian Qayoom’s rationale: “If I make this submission before the Chief Justice of India in Supreme court as a supreme court Bar member that Kashmir Association Bar president was making the speeches about UN resolutions, which means he does not accept the territorial jurisdiction of India in Kashmir, his license will be cancelled,” she pleaded before the court. Lone who had also unsuccessfully contested the 2008 election from Handwara was also expelled from Bar but was later re-inducted.

 In response Mian Qayoom  said he was not bothered about his license. All right, you take this license. A person’s right of self determination comes first,” Mian Qayoom said. “I am not aspirant for any chamber because I don’t accept any concession from the government.  I am obliged to my conscience and will take decisions in keeping with Bar constitution”.

 Counsel for J&K High Court Jehangir Iqbal Ganaie, said that he had requested the Bar Association to come up with a “reasonable, just and fair criterion” for allotment of chambers in favour of the practicing lawyers. Ganaie said that the High Court cannot accept any such decision of the Bar whereby members of the Bar are expelled and denied allotment of chambers for participating in the election.

 Similarly Advocate Azharul Amin termed the decision of the Bar association  to deny chambers to the lawyers who contested the elections without logic. “What about those lawyers who cast votes.  Then they should also not be given the chambers,” he argued.After hearing arguments the court has put on hold the allotment of chambers to Bar members.

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