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Anti-CAA protests: 1,000 lawyers distance themselves from BCI stand

A protest in New Delhi against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act earlier this week.

A protest in New Delhi against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act earlier this week.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

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Resolution does not represent views of the Bar, they say

Close to 1,000 lawyers from across the country have distanced themselves from the statements made by the Bar Council of India (BCI) on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the protests against it.

The lawyers disassociated themselves from the BCI’s resolution dated December 22, stating that it did not represent the views of the Bar.

“While the individual office-bearers of the BCI are free to express their opinions in their personal capacity, the use of the BCI’s platform to express the personal views of some is a disservice to the principles that the BCI stands for,” said a statement released by them on Thursday.

The lawyers said the resolution did not speak for all advocates as several of them had condemned the disparate impact of the CAA on minorities and the excesses of police forces.

A protest march was conducted by advocates outside Jamia Millia Islamia on December 21 in this regard.

“It is also extremely distressing to note that in its resolution, the BCI has referred to the lakhs of citizens of this country who are exercising their democratic right to protest, out of sheer anguish, as the ‘illiterate ignorant mass’. It did not befit the stature of the BCI for such statements to be made,” they said.

The resolution said the damage to public property and violence against the police were also serious issues.

“While there is no dispute with regard to this, the deaths of more than 25 people, including minors [as on December 24], the use of excessive and disproportionate force against protesters; minors being detained and beaten; and the widespread use of arbitrary Internet shutdowns are also grave issues,” the statement said.

The lawyers expressed the hope that the BCI and State Bar Councils lent their support to advocates working to address the issues.

The resolution also stated that “the bar expresses solidarity with our police and armed forces”.

However, the lawyers said the BCI, a body which was supposed to stand up for the Bar, did not deem it fit to express solidarity with Mohd. Shoaib, who was detained in Lucknow, or “the hundreds of advocates fighting to uphold the rights of citizens as recognised by the Constitution”.

The BCI’s role was to ensure that law and procedure took the proper course, and not to embolden impediments to justice, the lawyers said. “Excessive and unnecessary deference” to the State was unbecoming of its standing. “When allegations of grave abuse of State power are involved, it is not for the BCI to pass judgment either way. The Bar plays an essential role in the preservation of the Rule of Law, which is the essence of democracy, and a basic tenet of our Constitution,” they said.

The legal fraternity was indispensable to the balance of powers under the Constitution. “It is incumbent upon us as members of this fraternity to not take a partisan approach in the present circumstances,” they said, adding that protecting the rights to dissent and that of minorities was essential to this.

They also contested the BCI’s resolution, calling for the advocates to convince people not to protest against the Act as the matter was pending in the Supreme Court, stating that it could take away the people’s right to protest.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 1:00:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/anti-caa-protests-1000-lawyers-distance-themselves-from-bci-stand/article30400485.ece

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