• Madras Bar Association forced to cancel lecture on Article 370

    Newsclick Report

    August 16, 2019

    Close on the heels of a fact-finding team back from Jammu & Kashmir said they were not allowed to screen a video at a press conference in New Delhi’s Press Club of India reportedly due to ‘pressure’, comes another such incident – this time from Chennai.

    The Madras Bar Association, on Wednesday, cancelled a lecture on Article 370 inside their premises due to objections by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s legal wing, the Times of India reported.

    Incidentally, this incident comes days after Tamil superstar, considered close to BJP, publicly spoke on Article 370, complimenting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for the ‘master strategy’ and comparing the duo to Krishna-Arjuna in the epic, Mahabharata.

    The cancelled lecture was to be delivered by senior advocate K M Viajayan of the Madras High Court during the lunch break on August 14. It was part of the Madras Bar Association’s ‘Academic Lecture Series’.

    Minutes before the lecture was to start, the association office-bearers received an ‘objection’ to the event.

    Confirming this to ToI, ARL Sundaresan, president of the association said: “We received a letter from the BJP legal wing, signed by its office-bearer, L Kumaraguru, requesting us to postpone it as the matter was sub judice.”

    Speaking to Times of India, Vijayan said the association had approached him to deliver the talk. “From the beginning, I made it clear that I would only speak about the constitutional validity of the decision. All along I have never uttered even a single word about the Congress or the BJP. It was supposed to be out and out a legal event, as I am a constitutional lawyer.” 

    He said: “No one needs to accept my view. Neither am I a member of any political party, nor issuing any political statement. If a lawyers’ forum cannot debate the Constitution inside the court in Tamil Nadu, where else is it possible.”

    Meanwhile, the incident has attracted a volley of criticism from the legal fraternity there.

    A former judge of the court, Justice D Hariparanthaman, termed it as ‘Emergency’. “What is wrong in debating it? Why stop it?…Can only actor Rajinikanth comment on it? Does it mean that only those supporting the Centre’s view can voice their views,” he told ToI.

    Another retired judge of the Madras High Court, Justice K Chandru, told NewsMinute that citing reasons such as ‘sub judice’ is just an ‘eyewash.’.

    Image Courtesy: LiveLaw

    He said that in the past, many issues that were sub judice matters have been discussed and debated by the association.

    He told The News Minutehe said, “It is important for lawyers to know about legal aspects of issues. When a senior advocate of the association has agreed to share his views about Article 370 and when the association leaders have also accepted it and organized a session, postponing a session upon a letter from a BJP advocate is condemnable.”

    Terming the cancellation of the lecture as “wrong”, Justice (retd) Chandru said: “The Bar Association is a forum to discuss and debate….Not all advocates know everything, so it is a forum where we can share things and know more about world issues,” adding that the association could have asked the BJP legal wing to send one of its members to speak, too.

    According to the report, the BJP legal wing claimed that Vijayan had “already expressed his views” on the Centre’s decision to revoke Article 370. Despite Vijayan saying that his lecture would have dealt with the constitutional validity of the case, A. Kumaraguru of the BJP’s legal wing told The News Minute, that the “association is a place where we discuss the facts of law and not air our opinions on it”.


    First published in Newsclick.

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