J&K: Authorities ban High Court Bar Association polls

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Srinagar: Hours after former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom’s arrest, authorities on Tuesday banned the polls to the lawyers’ body on the ground that it is not registered with the competent authority and on apprehensions of breach of peace.

The order banning the election was issued by the Srinagar district magistrate (DM). The High Court Bar Association (HCBA) issued a notification for the polls on June 11.

The DM said his office received a communication from the Kashmir Advocates’ Association on June 15, raising various concerns with respect to the legality and authenticity of the HCBA. It alleged that the HCBA propagates secessionist ideology and it is an unregistered association while demanding a ban on its election.

The communication also said conducting the HCBA election will “threaten public order and lead to a scuffle among various sections of lawyers, resulting in breach of peace and disturbance of law and order”, according to the order issued by the DM, who is also the deputy commissioner.

The DM said he sought a detailed ground report from the senior superintendent of police (SSP), Srinagar on June 20 and with respect to the registration status of the HCBA, details were also sought from the Registrar of Societies, Kashmir.

The Registrar of Societies, Kashmir reported that the HCBA, Srinagar is not registered with its office.

“Whereas, SSP-Srinagar in his report dated June 24 reveals that JK HCBA Srinagar is advocating for a ‘peaceful settlement of Kashmir issue’ and has secessionist ideology and had record of intimidating members of the legal fraternity and others who adhere to the ideology of its members and are providing free legal aid to anti-national elements,” the order read.

The SSP’s report further revealed that there is “every apprehension of breach of peace and a law-and-order situation” involving members of the Kashmir Advocates’ Association and the HCBA if the aforesaid election is allowed be to conducted, it said.

The DM said a notice was issued to the HCBA last year for a clarification on its constitution, which states that its first objective is “to find ways and means, take steps for resolving the issues concerning public at large, including the larger issue of a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue”.

The HCBA was asked to explain its position on the subject since the stand is not in congruence with the Constitution of India and also in conflict with the Advocates Act, 1961.

The order said the DM’s office had sought the certificates of registration issued by the competent authority but the HCBA has failed to provide any response to it.

“Whereas, I have perused all the facts/reports and inputs of the matter placed before me and I am satisfied that there is an emergent situation which can lead to breach of peace and disruption of public order, if JK HCBA, Srinagar proceeds forward with the scheduled elections.

“Therefore, I, District Magistrate, Srinagar, by virtue of powers vested in me u/s 144, CrPC order that no gathering of four or more persons shall be allowed in the premises of the District Court Complex, Moominabad, Batmaloo or at any place for the purpose of JK HCBA, Srinagar election till further orders,” the order read.

“Since the emergence of the situation is sudden and its consequences are sufficiently grave, therefore the order is hereby passed ex-parte. The SSP, Srinagar shall ensure the implementation of this order in letter and spirit,” it added.

Any violation of the order shall invite punitive action under section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), it said.

Qayoom, a former president of the HCBA, was arrested on Tuesday for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to kill fellow advocate Babar Qadri in 2020, officials said here.

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