Karnataka lawyers representing students in sedition case manhandled by other lawyers

Videos show a mob gathered outside the Dharwad sessions court which included lawyers and civilians, and stones were pelted at the car of the accused's counsel.
Karnataka lawyers representing students in sedition case manhandled by other lawyers
Karnataka lawyers representing students in sedition case manhandled by other lawyers
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The lawyers representing the three Kashmiri engineering students in the sedition case filed in Hubballi were on Monday heckled by several advocates of the Dharwad Bar Association inside the court premises. A video of the lawyers chanting “Vande Mataram” and “Jai Hind” went viral on social media.

At around 2 pm on Monday, a team of three lawyers from Bengaluru were at the Dharwad Principal Sessions Court to file a bail application for the three Kashmiri students booked for sedition and currently lodged at the Belagavi Central Prison. The three men, who were studying at the KLE Institute of Technology, were booked after a video of them allegedly saying 'Pakistan Zindabad' went viral earlier in February.

The three lawyers went to the 3rd Additional Joint Magistrate First Class (JMFC) Court in Hubballi and obtained a copy of the FIR. They then went to the Principal Sessions Court in Dharwad to file the bail application. At the gates of the court, they were met with angry lawyers, who began demanding that they turn around and go back. The lawyers chanted “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and began questioning the counsel for the three students as to how they could represent anti-nationals. The lawyers demanded that no one from the legal community represent the accused in the case. 

Those part of the mob-  including lawyers and civilians- began pelting stones at the car in which the accused’s counsel had arrived. “One of the three lawyers from Bengaluru had a narrow escape when a stone landed near his face. He sustained minor injuries but he ducked and was saved,” one of the lawyers said.

The police gave us security and took us to file the application, one of the advocates told TNM. “We prepared a bail petition and met the Hubbali Bar Association President about giving representation. He spoke to us and said that we should apply for a writ petition. Then, we went to file a bail petition in Dharwad, but there, people surrounded us and didn’t allow us to go inside. They manhandled us. With difficulty and with police support, we went inside. We wanted to follow procedure and so we came,” he added. 

Once the police got the three lawyers inside the court, they filed a petition before the court. However, the protesting lawyers entered the court hall and began shouting slogans there as well. “They entered the court hall when the lawyers were filing the petition for bail. They began shouting slogans there too, the judge told them that this was not the way to conduct oneself and counselled the lawyers about the rights of the accused. It was only then that these lawyers left the court hall,” said BT Venkatesh from Reach Law, whose colleague was one of the lawyers representing the accused.

The car with shattered glass after the stones were pelted. 

Speaking to TNM, Bhimaji S Godse, President of the Dharwad Bar Association said that he was present at the court and even led the protests against the three advocates from Bengaluru.

“The High Court had issued an interim order against the Hubballi Bar Association’s resolution to not represent those who shouted Pakistan Zindabad. The order was not against us. These were students from Kashmir, who on the anniversary of Pulwama attack, sang along to a song called Pakistan Zindabad. Of course every accused has the right to be heard in a court of law. Let the three men represent themselves. We are members of the Dharwad Bar Association and we have decided not to represent them,” Bhimaji Godse said.

Why were the lawyers protesting?

On February 14, the Hubballi Rural Police registered an FIR against three student of the KLE Institute of Technology.

The very next day, the Hubballi Bar Association and the Young Lawyers’ Association passed a resolution 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 the three students. The students were remanded to judicial custody. On February 20, the Karnataka High Court was hearing a petition filed by BT Venkatesh and 23 other advocates, stating that the Bar Association's resolution went against the rights of the accused of obtaining a defence.

Chief Justice of Karnataka Abhay Sreenivas Oka, had said that the Hubballi Bar Association’s resolution violated the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Mohammed Rafi in 2011. Chief Justice Oka said that the resolution went against the Constitution, the statute of professional ethics and also called it a disgrace to the legal community.

“Despite the Chief Justice of Karnataka passing orders against the resolution, the lawyers were heckled today by several advocates in the Dharwad court. Stones were pelted at their car. They were threatened,” BT Venkatesh added.

Speaking to TNM, Ashok Baligar, President of the Hubballi Bar Association said that its members were not part of the protest as they were abiding by High Court orders. "We had passed a resolution and the High Court has passed the interim order. We abide by the honourable court's order. The incident happened in the Dharwad court and members of our association were not present there. They were probably lawyers from Dharwad," he added.  

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