The stand-off between former Kerala High Court Judge Justice C.N. Ramachandran Nair and the Bar Council of Kerala (BCK) over revival of the former’s enrolment for his refusal to pay back the welfare fund amount with interest to the tune of a little over Rs.4 lakh continues even after a High Court verdict on the issue.
Putting up a brave face, Mr. Ramachandran Nair maintains that he has every right to practise in Supreme Court and other High Courts except in the Kerala High Court since his name had been on the roll of the Bar Council of Kerala. But BCK has dug its heels in, insisting that unless he repays the refunded advocate welfare fund and get his enrolment renewed he can not resume practice.
Mr. Nair told The Hindu there was no bar on his practising in Supreme Court or any other High Court except Kerala High Court. (The Constitutional provision bars a former High Court Judge from practising in the same High Court from where he/she has retired). To buttress his point, he also cited Section 30 of the Advocates Act, which stipulates that every advocate who is on the Bar Council roll shall be entitled as of right to practise throughout the country. In fact, his practice has only been suspended following the elevation as High Court Judge in 2001. Even when the case came up before the judge; the Bar Council had conceded that his right to practise in other high courts except the Kerala High Court.
The former Judge also said he did not intend to transfer his enrolment to Delhi Bar Council as there was no need for transferring enrolment to respective bar councils for practising. In fact, no former Kerala High Court Judge practising in the Supreme Court had transferred their enrolment. According to him, the rule requires him only to intimate to the Bar council about his resumption of practice. (Disposing of his petition, the court asked Mr. Nair to approach the Bar Council of India with a request for transfer with intimation to the Bar Council of Kerala if required). He asserted that there was no question of transferring his enrolment to the Delhi High Court for practising in the Supreme Court. He pointed out that he had already been designated as senior advocate by the Supreme Court.
K.N.Anilkumar, Chairman, Enrolment Committee of the BCK, said the former Judge could not practice unless he got back on the roll of the BCK. If he wanted to revive his enrolment, he needs to repay the fund amount which he collected when he ceased to be an advocate on his elevation as a Judge. In fact, the committee could not take a different attitude towards Mr.Ramchandran Nair in the matter. As per the amended Bar Council of Kerala Rules, an advocate who was suspended or gave up practice and collected the welfare fund amount was bound to repay the amount if he/she wished to resume his practice. He did not know why Mr. Nair was taking such a recalcitrant attitude, especially when he could very well get back the welfare fund amount on his retirement from the profession. If the rule was waived, it would amount to discrimination and the rule would not stand the test of judicial scrutiny.