Sunday, February 5, 2023

Allahabad High Court directs Prayagraj District Bar Association elections be held

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The Allahabad High Court has directed the Prayagraj District Bar Association elections to be completed fairly as per the announced schedule.

The Division Bench of Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi and Justice Ajai Tyagi passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Santosh Kumar Mishra.

The writ petition pertains to the election of the office-bearers of District Bar Association, Allahabad.

The election process has already commenced with the issuance of the election programme as on April 6, 2022. It is not in dispute that the election process has progressed considerably and the ballot papers under the signature of the returning officer, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Advocate have also been printed.

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The date of polling is scheduled on May 11, 2022. Misgivings about the conclusion of the election process gave rise to the writ petition.

The Court has noticed a further complication when informed that the returning officer has resigned on May 4, 2022. Hence, the election process virtually was derailed. It is under such a situation that the matter was heard by the Court.

The Court noted that the Election of a Bar Association within the time frame according to the by-laws of the respective Bar Associations serves the purpose of Members of the Bar Association at large and equally it is of immense significance to the Bar and Bench relationship. The principles embodied under the by-laws under all circumstances must be observed meticulously and without fail. It is in the pursuit of this object that one Member of the Bar, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Advocate had voluntarily agreed to act as returning officer for conducting fair and free election as per schedule brought out on April 6, 2022.

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The letter of resignation dated May 4, 2022 tendered by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Advocate was placed before us. On a plain reading of the resignation letter, we simply understand that the same is no more than a conditional resignation. Even if the resignation letter has any other intention, nevertheless, we construe it to be a resignation conditional in nature, the Court held.

The Court bearing in mind the object of election schedule hereby disapproves the resignation tendered by the returning officer. The Court would expect the returning officer to go ahead with the election scheduled and ensure that a free and fair election is held and conducted as per the election program.

The Court has further noticed that the term of the previous committee has come to an end on March 31, 2022, where after as per the by-laws, it is the elder’s committee upon which the burden of holding/monitoring the free and fresh election would rest.

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In order to dispel any confusion as regards the election process, the Court in consultation with both the parties would nominate the Members of the elder’s committee as under:-

  1. Narendra Dev Pandey
  2. Vinod Chandra Dubey
  3. Sita Ram Singh
  4. Dhara Singh
  5. Krishna Bihari Tiwari

Alternative in case of refusal-

  1. Rajendra Srivastava
  2. Bagwat Prasad Pandey

The elder’s committee shall step into the supervision of the election process till the result is declared. The outgoing committee shall not undertake any financial transaction in contravention of the by-laws till the election process comes to an end, the Court said.

“To ensure the election process free and fair, we hereby authorise the Registrar General of the Court to nominate an observer from amongst the Registrars to oversee the election process. This exercise shall be completed within 24 hours. The observer shall be competent to report to this Court any difficulty whatsoever which may hamper the peaceful process till the declaration of the result.

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A sum of Rs 3,00,000 may be released from the account of the Bar Association and handed over to the senior most Member of the elder’s committee and the same may be utilized for completing the election process as per scheduled.

The observer may seek necessary help from the local police in case of any eventuality warranting for the same. The SSP, Allahabad is directed to provide all the requisite help to the returning officer on asking by the observer,” the order reads.

The Court further said that, we hope and trust that the election schedule is adhered to by taking appropriate measures and the entire process is brought to its end hassle free.

The Court has fixed the next hearing of the petition on May 17, 2022.

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