The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday criticised the Hubballi Bar Association's resolution barring advocates from representing three Kashmiri students accused of sedition. The High Court also took a strict view of the heckling faced by advocates from Bengaluru when they were inside the court premises in Dharwad to file a bail application for the three students from KLE Institute of Technology. The students are currently lodged in the Belagavi Central Prison.
"Barring advocates from appearing for the accused gives a bad name for the judiciary. A lawyer not allowed to approach the filing counter to apply for bail should not happen in this state," Chief Justice Abhay Oka said while hearing a petition filed by advocate BT Venkatesh stating that the Hubballi Bar Association's resolution went against the rights of the accused of obtaining a defence.
Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi informed the High Court that the Hubballi Bar Association is "willing to reconsider resolution barring advocates" from representing three Kashmiri students charged with sedition.
While it was the Hubballi Bar Association which passed the resolution, advocates in the Dharwad Principal Sessions Court questioned advocates from Bengaluru when they tried to file a bail application on Monday. The bail application has to be filed at the district court in Dharwad before it is allocated to the magistrate court in Hubballi for hearing.
"In the Court, the President of the Dharwad Advocates Association, along with other Advocates who were present, asked us not to file vakalath in the matter. They told us that the accused were â€˜deshadrohisâ€™ and by filing vakalath we would also be â€˜deshadrohisâ€™. They told us that Gandhiji had said that a bad law should be disobeyed and that in such manner the order of the Karnataka High Court should be disobeyed," Maitreyi Krishnan, an advocate who was part of a team of three lawyers from Bengaluru stated in an affidavit.
She said that hundreds of lawyers began shouting at them. "They said that they would not let us go in one piece. Such was the abuse, threats and intimidation issued to us before the court...Given the vitiated atmosphere which was worsening by the moment, we could not go to the registration/filing counter and were taken back to our vehicle. Someone threw stones from behind when the three of us and the driver were inside the car, breaking the back window, and the stones came inside the car," Maitreyi stated.
The Hubballi Bar Association and the Young Lawyers' Association passed a resolution on February 15 stating that none of its members would file a vakalat (a document where the party submits that said lawyer would be representing him/her in court) for three students from KLE Institute of Technology charged with sedition. The students are from Jammu and Kashmir and an FIR was registered against them at the Hubballi Rural Police Station after a video of them allegedly saying 'Pakistan Zindabad' went viral earlier in the month.
CJ Oka suggested transferring the case to Bengaluru to allow the bail application to be filed. The case will be heard on Thursday.