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‘How fair is it to spend ₹30 lakh for biryani feast?’

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Judges appalled to hear about advocates’ association library lying in a dilapidated condition

The Madras High Court on Tuesday expressed dismay over Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) having spent around ₹30 lakh for a biryani feast during its recently held Annual Day celebrations without bothering to spend the association money fruitfully for the betterment of its historic library, lying in ruin.

A Division Bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and R. Pongiappan were taken aback to read a report submitted by a committee comprising senior counsel A.E. Chelliah, M.K. Kabir, V. Selvaraj and Sudha Ramalingam on the poor shape in which the association premises as well as its library had been maintained over the years.

The committee, after inspecting the association premises and the library on July 25, said, it was appalled to find the entire place in disarray and unclean. “All law reference books as well as reports in the library were moth eaten and ruined. Book shelves were infested with rodents and we were informed that there is possibility of even snakes being present,” it said.

The court was further told that ancient reference books belonging to the Queen’s Bench and King’s Bench were uncared for and dusty. They had been dumped in top shelves and were in very poor shape. Old air conditioners, broken chairs and newspapers were also strewn around the association premises as well as the library, the committee said.

Books that had been donated to the library were also piled up in a corner for want of space to put them on display. Several portraits on the second floor were extensively damaged. The ceiling of the second floor was cracked, window panes were damaged and there was also leakage on the walls during heavy downpour, the court was told.

“This committee is of the view that emergent steps under the supervision of the Heritage Committee as well as Building Committee (both constituted by Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani and comprising of High Court judges) of the High Court should be taken to repair the roof/ceiling, clean the entire premises and undertake pest control measures,” the report read.

The committee went on to warn that failure to act fast could lead to the roof of the heritage building collapsing any time. The report was filed on the basis of a direction issued by the Bench during the hearing of a writ petition filed by advocate K. Sathyabal accusing the office-bearers of the association of having indulged in various irregularities. After perusing the committee’s report, the judges directed the association to file the income and expenditure statement for the last five years after it was orally reported that though the association’s revenue was around ₹2 crore every year, the expenditure was nearly ₹1.5 crore and that it was left with a bank balance of just ₹2 crore.

The Bench said that appropriate orders would be passed in the case after the submission of the accounts statement. They also expressed displeasure over the association not having conducted its general body meeting for the last five years.

Another case

Hearing another case related to Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP), the same Division Bench said, though new office-bearers had assumed office in the council, it wanted to know by August 6 as to whether the 17 disciplinary committees, already in existence, could be allowed to dispose of around 400 complaints pending against various lawyers in the State.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 8:25:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/how-fair-is-it-to-spend-30-lakh-for-biryani-feast/article28764553.ece

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