Friday, January 27, 2023

Allahabad HC asks Bar Association committee to seek EVMs from Election Commission for voting

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The Allahabad High Court has asked Senior Advocate Shashi Prakash Singh, chairman of the Elders’ Committee, to approach the Election Commission for conducting EVM voting in the elections to the Bar Association, so that counting of votes can be completed immediately. The Court has ordered the Registrar General to cooperate in this.

The Division Bench of Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice Piyush Agrawal passed this order while hearing a PIL filed by Santosh Kumar Mishra And 4 Others. In pursuance to the direction of the Court given on the last date of hearing, a supplementary affidavit along with application has been submitted by the General Secretary, High Court Bar Association.

The Court noted,

“The Elders’ Committee has submitted a detailed report about the action taken for the elections of Bar Association till date. It is pursuant to the initial order when constituting the Elders’ Committee, program for election was given with a direction to the Registry to list the case on November 15, 2021 to see the progress of the election of Bar Association.”

The members of the Elders’ Committee submitted that a mishap took place on October 18, 2021 when a meeting of the General Body took place and consequently FIR was lodged by them and against them.

General Secretary Prabha Shankar Mishra has already submitted a supplementary affidavit along with application to withdraw the proceedings on FIR. Similar application has not been submitted by the Elders’ Committee, however, on persuasion of the Court, they have also agreed not to press the FIR lodged by them, though with reservations.

The Court said that the reservations are not specified for the reason that ultimately Elders’ Committee was constituted by the Court, maybe two members were inducted by each party followed by nomination of the Chairman by the Court but Court has taken it to be constitution of the Elders’ Committee by it and as an exception to the Bye-laws of the Bar Association.

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Thus, the Court was not inclined to keep any matter pending against any member of the Elders’ Committee and by them also and accordingly the members of the Elders’ Committee have also agreed to withdraw the criminal case lodged by them and also suspension of the members.

At this stage, Amrendra Nath Singh, the President of the Bar, submitted that even the bank account has been operated by the Elders’ Committee though it never happened in the past. It was controversial by the Elders’ Committee coming out that once administration is taken over by the Elders’ Committee, the bank account is operated by them.

In any case, the court made clear that no withdrawals from the bank account of the Bar would be made. In fact, election expenses are meted out from the amount collected towards security deposited by the candidates contesting election.

The Court said, “It has been informed that a decision has been taken to distribute food packets on November 27, 2021 and December 1, 2021. It is to avoid any dinner or lunch by the candidates or others, however, on objection having been raised, the members of the Elders’ Committee very graciously accepted the proposal rather they have agreed not to distribute food packets and accordingly we direct that other than those involved in the election duties, the food packets would not be distributed on any date rather whatever amount is saved out of security, the same would be transferred to the account of the Bar Association and we have made a request that surplus amount should be spent on the grooming of young lawyers.

The task would be taken by the newly elected members by holding periodic conferences or seminars with invitation of the Senior Advocates to guide the young lawyers how to excel in the practice.

We also request that while doing it, the Bar may also invite High Court Judges, being the part of the institution so that the administration could work in fullest coordination with each other. If grooming of young lawyers takes place, it ultimately remains in the interest of the Bar, which is one of the prestigious Bar of the country.

The Court further said that the Senior Advocates present in the Court have voluntarily agreed to be the part of those conferences/seminars. The Elders’ Committee would conduct the election as per the schedule and everybody present in the Court which includes the President and General Secretary apart from other office bearers to cooperate. They would not keep anything in mind in reference to the incident on October 18, 2021 and we appreciate that each of the members has accepted the suggestions of the Court. Therefore, we appreciate everyone present in the Court for honouring the direction of the Court.

The Court stated that the election is scheduled to be held on December 01, 2021, we ask the Elders’ Committee to see that it is conducted in compliance of the direction and no poster or material is either pasted anywhere in public or in the Court premises or distributed so as to avoid filth and destroy the beauty of the city. The application for withdrawal of the criminal case has already been moved by the General Secretary of the Bar Association and a similar application would be moved by the Elders’ Committee to the police station concerned within 3 days. The respective police station in-charge will give the final report so that both the cases may come to an end immediately and not to be pursued further more.

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“The SHO concerned is directed to complete the proceedings within 3 days of the receipt of the application along with the order and we request all the members of the Bar to have tranquility and peace during the course of election and accordingly the direction given by the Court be complied to its fullest and in appropriate manner. There would be no further difficulty in holding the election smoothly, rather the Elders’ Committee is taking care of every aspect of the matter so that the election is conducted in the manner directed by the Court.

We appreciate their efforts, however, taking into consideration the magnitude of the election, we keep the matter pending but it is with the direction that the Chairman, Elders’ Committee would pursue the Election Commission to provide electronic voting machines so that voting and counting may take place immediately.

The method has otherwise been adopted recently in the election of Oudh Bar Association and would be adopted by the Elders’ Committee also. In view of the withdrawal or suspension of certain members which includes the President and the General Secretary, they would figure in the voter list and have the right to cast their vote.

It is made clear that whatever support would be required from the administration, the Registrar General of the High Court would extend it to the Elders’ Committee in holding the election smoothly, as was done in the previous elections. A copy of the resolution taken by the Elders’ Committee would be arranged after tracing it out by the office of the Bar Association,” the order said.

The Court has fixed the next hearing of the petition on November 26, 2021.

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