Controversy
Many, including former judges, have questioned why the association succumbed to pressure from the BJP legal wing.
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The decision taken by a lawyer’s association in Chennai to cancel a scheduled lecture on the abrogation of Article 370 has drawn flak from various members of the community itself.

Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was abrogated by the government of India on August 5. It is in this backdrop that the Madras Bar Association, a collective of advocates practicing law in Chennai, arranged for a lecture on abrogation of Article 370. The lecture was to be delivered by a senior member of the association, advocate KM Vijayan and was to take place during the lunch break on Wednesday in the association premises.

Minutes before KM Vijayan took the podium to begin his speech, the association announced that the event was being cancelled as a group of lawyers, who allegedly were from the legal wing of BJP, wrote to the association to stop the lecture.

Speaking to TNM about the event, advocate ARL Sundaresan, the President of the Madras Bar Association said that the request to postpone the event, signed by one advocate A Kumaraguru was put forth at the last moment. “The legal wing of BJP gave a letter to postpone the event because the matter is subjudice. We discussed it with our members and decided to postpone to another day,” he said adding that the event has just been postponed and not cancelled.

When asked why the request to postpone was submitted at the eleventh hour, he pointed out that the lecture was announced only two or three days ago.

This action by the Bar Assocation has drawn flak from various senior members, who have gone on record to condemn it.

BJP legal wing could have sent representation

K Chandru, former judge in Madras High Court, slammed the decision to call off the lecture. Speaking to TNM, he said, “It is important for lawyers to know about legal aspects of issues. When a senior advocate of the association has agreed to share his views about Article 370 and when the association leaders have also accepted it and organized a session, postponing a session upon a letter from a BJP advocate is condemnable.”

Stating that reasons like ‘the matter is subjudice’ is just an eyewash, the retired judge said that previously many subjudice matters have been discussed and debated in the association.

“The Bar Association is a forum to discuss and debate about a lot of issues. Not all advocates know everything, so it is a forum where we can share things and know more about world issues,” he said adding that the members of the Association could have told the BJP legal wing to send someone to put forth its views on the matter as well and continued with conducting the lecture.

“Therefore, I think it was very wrong to suspend the lecture,” he said.

Bar Association is not a place to air opinions

BJP legal wing, however, maintained that KM Vijayan had already expressed his views on the abrogation in other media and this lecture would not have been anything new.

“Madras Bar Association is a place where we discuss the facts of law and not air our opinions on it. KM Vijayan has already expressed his views on the revocation of special status in other platforms. Our view was that the matter is pending before the Supreme court and notices have been served on the case,” advocate A Kumaraguru, National executive member, BJP’s Law and Legal Affairs department told TNM.

Specifying that Bar association is not a place to debate and have political fights, Kumaraguru said, “Every month the association conducts a session on the new legislations in the country in which experts will come and talk about the amendments and the new laws. They just explain the law and leave it at that.”

Responding to former Judge Hari Paranthaman’s comment that when actor Rajinikanth can express opinions on article 370 why can’t the lawyers do so too, Kumaraguru said that there was no objection to any advocate expressing his view in any other event. “Rajinikanth expressed his view in a book launch event. KM Vijayan can also talk in any other private event, we have no objection,” he added.  

The resistance from BJP’s legal wing comes days after the Central University of Tamil Nadu acted against a group of students who organized a discussion on Article 370 inside the campus. The discussion was organized as a part of the weekly study circle conducted by Freedom Speakers inside the university campus, to help students crack UPSC examinations.