Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lawyers or separatists? - Hindustan Times

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times

There is an unusual addition to the list of separatist organisations in J&K — the Kashmir Bar Association (KBA).

According to the Union Home Ministry, the Bar is one of 49 separatist organisations currently operating in the state. This disclosure was made in response to a Right to Information application filed by Aditya Raj Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit youth activist.

The Bar has questioned the government’s decision. It says its objectives are apolitical and, hence, it cannot be categorised as a separatist organisation. “The KBA is a body of lawyers practising in the J&K High Court. The advocate general, government advocates, public prosecutors and standing counsels for various government departments, public sector undertakings and banks are its members,” said its president Mian Abdul Qayoom.

The high court gives licenses to lawyers after verifying their antecedents and after the police have certified they aren't involved in illegal activities. “The license can be cancelled if a member is found guilty of professional misconduct,” he added.

What may have prompted the government to make this categorisation is the fact that the KBA constitution calls for finding ways to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of the people. But Qayoom finds nothing wrong in this. “When India and Pakistan are engaged in negotiations on Kashmir, why can’t the KBA or its members strive for resolution of the contentious issue?”

Legal experts said the government should clarify. “Any group whose objective is to enable J&K to secede from India can be called a separatist organisation. We don’t know the objectives of the KBA,” said former law minister Shanti Bhushan.

Qayoom said it was the professional duty of Bar members to provide legal aid to those (read militants) who approach them. “By doing so, they can’t be said to have indulged in any illegal act.”

He also rubbished charges that the KBA prevented lawyers from pleading the cases of accused in the Srinagar sex scandal involving ministers, legislators and police officers. “We didn’t pass any resolution, neither did we stop any member from representing the accused. The decision was left to the lawyers.”

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Ashutosh Raina said...

Is the Govt. taking any action against such Bar associations?

Why should the government show a lenient attitude towards such people?

kk610a said...

I fail to see what is unusual about it. The lawyer's body may not have declared written agenda or goal, but if they act in a manner to suit such objectives, what is wrong in being labelled as separatists.

As a lawyer I had just started my practice in Jammu when migration happened. I am aware of the then agitations that were counselled and at times spear headed by the members of Kashmir Bar Association.

The same Mr. Qayoom, before he was shot at by militants and when he was reining supreme as the advisor to many militant groups, had appeared in a grey suit before Justice B. A. Khan of J & K High Court at Jammu and the court didnot have the courage to tell him that he wasnot in proper dress and hence couldnot appear as an advocate. He was, then, arrogance personified.

All the members of Kashmir Bar Association, because they were based in Kashmir were singing the same tune of separatism, may be because they had to live in Kashmir. Not a single legal soul from Kashmir had I seen, in the period of eight years that I spent in Jammu, who had made efforts to rise above the crisis and make some sensible contribution. Everybody tried to ride the wave.

Around that time the erstwhile Deputy Chief Minister Mr. M. H. Beig, was sitting in Delhi and practising as a senior advocate in Supreme Court, but was regularly in touch with the Kashmir Bar Association through his juniors and other members. Even he never decried the efforts of Kashmir Bar Association.

I know of an instance when a junior of Mr. Beig had been deputed to Geneva to represent the Kashmiris. He was a young man then around my age. He was sick of the atmosphere in Kashmir. Having gone to Geneva, he never came back to Kashmir to practice law.

All reasonable people in Kashmir Bar Association who can see beyond the present, choose to either mind their own business or migrate out of Kashmir.

But yes whosoever are left there have no other option but to sing the same tunes as the people around them. Simply because lawyers earn from the masses around them. To support my contention I give the instance of the contribution of Jammu Bar Association during the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti's agitation. Lawyers in Jammu were very active then. So much so that the head of Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti Mr. Lila Karan Sharma himself is a lawyer.

How can anybody seggregate lawyers from the community they service ?

And I repeat my question - what is unsual about KBA being labelled a separatist organisation ?

I think KBA should shed their duplicity and come out in the open.