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Principles of natural justice followed before suspending Secretary: SCBA to HC

Differences appeared among the top office bearers in the SCBA over the stand taken by the lawyers’ body on a ''resolution'' concerning statements made by Justice Arun Mishra (since retired) about Prime Minister Narendra Modi at International Judicial Conference-2020. During the hearing, senior advocate Arvind Nigam, representing SCBA, said the principles of natural justice were duly abided by as Arora was heard by the committee before passing of the resolution.

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 25-09-2020 18:17 IST | Created: 25-09-2020 18:17 IST
Principles of natural justice followed before suspending Secretary: SCBA to HC

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Friday told the Delhi High Court that principles of natural justice were followed before suspending its secretary Ashok Arora from the post. SCBA claimed the need to suspend Arora arose as there was an attempt to hijack the functioning of the association. However, Arora has alleged that his removal by the Executive Committee of SCBA was in violation of principles of natural justice.

Justice Mukta Gupta, after hearing arguments of the parties, reserved the order on the interim plea of Arora to stay the SCBA resolution removing him from the post of association’s secretary. The court was hearing a suit filed by Arora challenging his suspension.

The Executive Committee of the SCBA had passed a resolution on May 8, suspending Arora from the post of secretary with immediate effect in a meeting held through online conference. The suspension had come a day after Arora had called an emergent general meeting (EGM) of the lawyers’ body on May 11 to deliberate on the agenda for removing senior advocate Dushyant Dave from the post of SCBA President.

The Executive Committee had also cancelled the proposed EGM and decided to set up a three-member panel to look into the allegations against Arora, an SCBA official had said. The official had said the decision to suspend Arora was taken by the majority of participating lawyers.

The BCI had on May 10 stayed the May 8 decision of the Executive Committee of the SCBA to suspend Arora with immediate effect by terming the suspension as “illegal, cavalier, undemocratic and autocratic”. Differences appeared among the top office bearers in the SCBA over the stand taken by the lawyers’ body on a ''resolution'' concerning statements made by Justice Arun Mishra (since retired) about Prime Minister Narendra Modi at International Judicial Conference-2020.

During the hearing, senior advocate Arvind Nigam, representing SCBA, said the principles of natural justice were duly abided by as Arora was heard by the committee before passing of the resolution. He said instead the resolution passed by the BCI were against the principles of natural justice as it was an ex-parte order issued without hearing SCBA.

Advocate Rajdipa Behura, appearing for BCI, submitted that the apex lawyers’ body has already stayed the resolution of SCBA but the association has not agreed to it. Relying on the provisions of the Advocates Act and previous judgement of the Supreme Court, she said BCI has requisite powers to regulate the conduct of advocates and bar associations and passing of the resolution was well within its jurisdiction.

Nigam contended that BCI had no power to interfere in the internal management affairs of a private association like SCBA. The high court listed the main suit for hearing on November 6.

In his suit, Arora has sought to declare the SCBA resolution as void ab initio, ultra vires to the rules and regulations of the SCBA and as such liable to be quashed and declared null and void. The suit also sought to pass a decree of permanent injunction in favour of Arora and against SCBA, thereby restraining it and its office bearers and employees from interfering in the functioning of plaintiff (Arora) to perform his duties as duly elected secretary of SCBA for the remaining term for which he was elected.

The suit also sought a direction to the BCI to ensure that its May 10 resolution is duly implemented in letter and spirit by SCBA. Shortly after Dave had issued the February 25 ''resolution'', allegedly signed by several members of the lawyers'' body expressing anguish and concern over Justice Mishra's statements, Arora had claimed that "no resolution has been passed" as he did not sign the statement released to the media.

Arora had then said, "There was no executive council or general body meeting of the Association. The President has taken an arbitrary dictatorial and irresponsible stand. He cannot speak on behalf of SCBA without calling a general body meeting or meeting of the executive council on such a serious issue". Arora had said that all the communication to the media is to be sent through the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who is General Secretary of the SCBA.

"It is not a resolution in the eyes of law because it was not signed by me," he had said, adding that Dave has made available to media a circular which contained suggestions of only six to seven members. The lawyers’ body in its resolution had said, "The SCBA expresses its strong reservations on the statement and condemns the same strongly. The SCBA believes that the independence of the judiciary is the basic structure under the Constitution of India and that such independence be preserved in letter and spirit." On February 22, Justice Mishra was all praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi while delivering the vote of thanks at the inaugural function of the International Judicial Conference 2020 - ''Judiciary and the Changing World'' and termed him as an "internationally acclaimed visionary" and a "versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally".


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