Advocates to continue boycott

A. Subramani

CHENNAI: : Accusing the Centre of being indifferent to representations from advocates protesting the latest amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, various associations have decided to continue the court boycott beyond July 11.

Originally, the Erode-based Federation of District and Subordinate Courts Bar Associations of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry announced boycott only for five days, from July 4 to 8. The Madras High Court Advocates Association's token strike was only for three days, from July 6. The Madurai Bench High Court Advocates Association (MBHAA) has announced "suspension of court work" only for two days.

But, on Saturday, MHAA president S. Prabakaran said the boycott would continue till the Centre withdrew the amendment Act. The decision to extend the boycott was taken after advocates wanted the agitation intensified.

Bar Federation secretary P. Thirumalairajan said the subordinate court bars in all districts would abstain from court proceedings till July 15. The federation members would take out a rally in Coimbatore on July 15 and stage a demonstration in front of Parliament on July 25.

With the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act 2005 having been passed by Parliament, there are at least four ways to wriggle out of the situation, says senior advocate K. Chandru. The President could return the Act to the Centre for reconsideration; or the Centre, on its own, could request the President to return it for a detailed study. On its part, the State Government too can write to the President requesting him to return the Bill; or it could promulgate an Ordinance for excluding the application of the amendment for Tamil Nadu.

As it is, Section 438 of the CrPC governing anticipatory bail is operating differently in different States because such amendments introduced by the State Governments. While Uttar Pradesh does not have a provision for anticipatory bail at all, in Maharashtra the amendment Act will not mean anything because the anticipatory bail petitioners are expected to be present in court at the time of orders.

In Tamil Nadu, however, Section 438 is a live-wire provision, as not less than 100 anticipatory bail petitions are filed every day in the High Court. Sessions Courts too witness a large number of such pleas daily. That is the reason why, when a new provision, mandating the presence of the accused in court at the time of orders, is introduced, it is strongly resisted by lawyers, legal circles say.

The All-India Lawyers Union (AILU) has expressed "anguish" at the amendment and said that insisting on the presence of the accused during orders on his anticipatory bail petition would pave the way for the police to arrest the person if the petition was dismissed. "It would deny him the right to move higher courts. This is a serious erosion of the rights of a citizen's freedom," says AILU president N.G.R. Prasad.

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