Coming straight to the nub of the matter, the Delhi High Court on January 29 issued a notice to the Delhi Government and also to the Delhi Police on a plea of Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) seeking an SIT probe in the dastardly attack on lawyers of DHCBA in separate incidents in January. The Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar directed that the report should be filed under the signature of a senior police officer, which shall be shown to the Delhi Police Commissioner. It directed that the report should be filed in two days as the incidents warrants swift and necessary action.
                                          As it turned out, a plea has been moved before the Delhi High Court seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the attacks on the lawyers, besides guidelines for advocates security.
                                             Truth be told, in a dastardly attack on three cars belonging to two senior lawyers were torched while cars and an office building of their colleague were attempted to be set on fire allegedly by miscreants in three separate incidents between January 4 and January 22. What is most disconcerting to note is that the three senior lawyers includes Kirti Uppal who is the President of Delhi High Court Bar Association and Vikas Pahwa who has been a senior counsel of the Government and has also been conducting cases both in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. This has shaken lawyers not just in Delhi but all across the country!  
                                                Let me say this most categorically: If there is one High Court which is reputed for seldom going to strike, it is none other than Delhi High Court. It is only when something very serious happens that Delhi High Court Bar Association decides to go on complete strike. One such rare occasion was on 25 January, 2018. That is why even I was awestruck on reading in the news that the Delhi High Court Bar Association has called for strike on 25 January.
                                Sure enough, there were compelling reasons for the lawyers of Delhi High Court to go on a complete strike on 25 January. The Delhi High Court Bar Association resolved to abstain from work on Thursday, i.e. 25 January, as a mark of solidarity against a recent  dastardly attack on two senior and eminent advocates of the Delhi High Court – Kirti Uppal and Vikas Pahwa. As per a resolution passed by the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, another attack had been staged against advocate Ravi Sharma, when two of his vehicles parked in the courtyard of his house were burned.
                                       Be it noted, these three advocates who have been attacked have together been supporting firmly the cause of a lady advocate. What wrong have they done? They were just discharging their professional duty and who can it understand better than them who have spent decades in this noble profession?
                                    Truly speaking, the matter reportedly pertains to lodging of a stalking case against a woman lawyer, who was then allegedly dragged out of her residence by the city police to arrest her despite court orders against coercive action. This is reprehensible! What is even more despicable is that the lawyers are now being themselves personally attacked!
                                       What can be more disgraceful than this! This should not have happened at the first instance! How will courts function normally if advocates themselves are subjected to personal attacks and even their vehicles are not spared?     
                                      As per the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, even though the FIRs have been registered by the lawyers, the attitude of the police “looks lackadaisical and deliberate protracting”. The police must wake up its ideas! This is a very serious charge!
                                          Needless to say, Delhi police must go all out to make the necessary amends in this direction and ensure that the culprits who attacked the lawyers are swiftly brought to book and strictly punished in accordance with the law! Delhi High Court Bar Association is reputed all over the world for always working in the most professional manner! What is said by its Executive Committee has to be taken most seriously by the Delhi police and steps must be taken by it promptly to restore the faith of the lawyers of Delhi High Court in the police!
                                          To put things in perspective, the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association then asserts that, “The Executive Committee is unanimous of the view that the present situation is an extra ordinary in nature in as much as these heinous acts have been executed with the intention to overawe and strike terror in our community by using inflammable substances, in a manner so as to cause injuries or loss of life and damage/destruction of property in order to terrorize the Advocates to refrain from performing their professional duties. The Executive Committee feels that this act of terror threatens the statutory duty of lawyers to conduct themselves fearlessly and with dignity in defending a client.”
                                            To be sure, The Executive Committee also feels that inspite of registration of these FIRs by the lawyers and personal meeting of the Members of the Committee with the Police at the highest level apprising them about the nexus and also providing them with the CCTV footages of these criminal acts, adequate and proper attention is not being given to the matter and their approach looks lackadaisical and deliberately protracting.  The Committee further states that Proxy Counsels have been appointed for every Court and a list will be displayed on the notice boards as well as outside every Court room.”   
                                   Who can deny that attacks on lawyers in past few years have increased manifold? But what is most concerning to note is that now even the lawyers and that too senior and eminent lawyers like Vikas Pahwa and others are not safe even while practicing in the High Court and Supreme Court! The lawyers of Meerut are most concerned for his safety apart from Delhi because his father – KK Pahwa too is an eminent criminal lawyer in Meerut Bar and I consider myself fortunate to having interacted with him some years ago! Moreover, Vikas Pahwa is a legal luminary whose articles keep coming even in national newspapers like ‘The Times of India’ which I have the privilege of reading myself even though I have not personally met Vikas Pahwa ever till now! But he and his father are always appreciated and held in highest esteem by the lawyers here!   
                                                Anyway, coming back to the main subject, the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association of which senior advocate Vikas Pahwa is also a member on January 24 passed a resolution condemning the attacks on 9th and 22nd January on the properties and cars of senior advocates Pahwa and Kirti Uppal who is also the President of Delhi High Court Bar Association by using inflammable substances. Not just this, a similar incident the lawyers claimed had taken place on 4th January when the two cars – Maruti Swift and Honda Amaze which were parked in the east Delhi house of advocate Ravi Sharma were torched by unidentified persons. Police itself admitted that attempts were made to set ablaze Vikas Pahwa’s Greater Kailash office building and cars on 9th January!   
                                          Vikas Pahwa who is also a member of the Executive Committee revealed that, “There is a complete ban. No advocate appeared in courts and no evidence was recorded in any case. We are holding a peaceful protest and have removed our bands. The Bar is also preparing a writ petition seeking an SIT probe into the incident.” Who can question this demand for SIT probe? There must be SIT probe and truth must come out as to who all are behind this dastardly attack on three eminent and senior lawyers of Delhi High Court. All the shops in the court complex are also shut following the Bar’s call and even Judges left their chambers on seeing the lawyers strike!
                                Advocate Vikas Pahwa’s Greater Kailash office building and parked cars were attempted to be set on fire on January 9. He said such acts of mischief were done to intimidate him. An FIR was registered on January 11 on Pahwa’s complaint. On January 22, Kirti Uppal’s Hyundai Tucson car that was sparked outside her house in South Delhi’s Nizamuddin West was set on fire by unidentified miscreants, according to the FIR registered.
                              Vikas Pahwa also disclosed that the stilt area of the house was also damaged in the fire. Before the arson attempt at his office building, Pahwa said that two cars – Maruti Swift and Honda Amaze which belonged to advocate Ravi Sharma were set on fire by unidentified miscreants on January 4. The cars were parked at Sharma’s Dayanand Vihar home in East Delhi. Vikas Pahwa also revealed while quoting the FIR filed at the Anand Vihar police station that, “Footage from the CCTV of Sharma’s neighbour showed a man driving a car stopping outside Sharma’s house and throwing something on his cars in flames.”

                                             It goes without saying that the lawyers all across India stand firmly and fully with these 3 senior and eminent advocates of Delhi High Court in this hour. If lawyers who are the officers of the court are themselves attacked in this dastardly manner and the guilty are not quickly brought to book and the Delhi High Court Bar Association finds that police is displaying a total lackadaisical approach then who will defend fearlessly the litigants in courts? This is a very serious question and the police, Centre and Delhi government need to honestly introspect on this!
                            Needless to say, it is the bounden duty of both Centre and Delhi government to ensure that full protection is given especially  to senior lawyers so that no harm is caused to them or to their property in any manner! They must not back away from it! Who is safe if lawyers themselves are not safe and that to in our national capital? No one!
                                     It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that the strike by lawyers of Delhi High Court on January 25 stands fully and firmly justified! It was imperative to highlight the attention of the government to make serious efforts in this direction and to also ensure that police gets rid of its complacency that is too visible in this entire case! One fervently hopes that the police will at least now take suitable action to bring the culprits to book as soon as possible and the lawyers of Delhi High Court would not be compelled to once again go on fresh strike pressing for their demands!      
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.  
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As my pen starts running, I must note right now with great satisfaction that the Supreme Court on January 16 warned strongly in no uncertain terms that it would step in if the government didn’t bring a law to ban illegal activities of khap panchayats, saying no one had the right to question an adult’s choice of a marriage partner. Why government is always quick to label judiciary as crossing its Laxman Rekha and trying to tread in the territory which belongs exclusively to the executive but does nothing on its part even when the writing on the wall is clear? Why government displays complete inaction for decades but when judiciary tries to step in then spares no time in terming it as “judicial activism”?
                                    While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that the Apex Court said explicitly that, “Attacks on those opting for inter-caste marriage were absolutely illegal and khap panchayats cannot threaten adult women and men for marrying each other.” When an adult men and women are ready to both marry each other with consent then what business do khap panchayats have to poke their nose in between? How can attack by anyone at the behest of the khap panchayats be justified under any circumstances?
                             For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that a Bench of Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra minced no words in sending out very firmly a loud and clear message that, “If they are not bringing a law, we will develop the concept and see to that these types of illegal activities are not carried out.” This was observed by the Bench led by the CJI while sparing no punches in pulling up the government for not responding to an eight-year-old petition seeking a ban on khap panchayats. What the Bench of Apex Court led by the CJI has said is absolutely right!
                                          To put things in perspective, khaps are caste or community groups that wield considerable influence especially in rural areas of north India. They are notorious for holding kangaroo courts that dissolve marriages, dictate dress code, mostly to women, ban cellphones and even force rape victims into marrying rapists. They openly threaten with dire consequences all those who dare to disobey their whimsical orders which includes social boycott, expulsion from a village etc. It is known very well that these khap panchayats very strongly oppose inter caste and inter faith marriages and those who still dare to do it are sometimes murdered also and in many are terrorized by beating them brutally!
                                      How can all this be allowed to go on indefinitely? Why have the khap panchayats been allowed to have their say on not just all important but also all trivial issues? Why did the government make no law to check this menace  swiftly and strictly? Is the government not guilty of complete inaction on this score thus compelling the judiciary to step in?   
                               It is noteworthy that khaps by virtue of enjoying tremendous political clout among all major political parties brazenly order attack on any couple who dare to marry inter-caste or inter-religion thus making a complete mockery of the legal and constitutional rights conferred by our legal system to all adults of marrying whomever they want and whenever they want with their own free choice! When the Bench of the Apex Court took up the matter, a khap leader present in the court said that it was incorrect to term the village body illegal.
                                    Going forward, the khap leader also urged that khaps were changing and should be heard before passing an order. The Supreme Court Bench also made it loud and clear that, “What we are concerned is about the rights of an adult girl or boy. They can get involved in a marriage. No panchayat, individual, society or parents can question it.” All these so called khap panchayats, individuals, society and parents must fully understand and appreciate what the Bench of Apex Court has said so categorically.
                                 Needless to say, the Apex Court has explicitly made it illegal for extra-constitutional organizations like the khap panchayats, society, a group of individuals and parents from forcing their marital choices on couples without their consent. When the khap leader said that panchayats were playing a crucial role to usher in change, the CJI Dipak Misra said that, “The changes don’t take in a regressive manner.” Absolutely right!
                                     To be sure, senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the court in the matter has already submitted a report. Raju took the right stand that khap panchayats were influential and the court should take steps to control them. In a list of suggestions, Raju has said that state governments should identify districts, sub-divisions and/or villages that have reported instances of so-called honour killing or khap panchayats assemblies.
                         It was also observed that a superintendent of police must at regular intervals issue directives to the officer-in-charge of police stations to be extra cautious if any instance of inter-caste or inter-religious marriage comes to notice. Raju also said that a local police station should immediately inform the district police chief on getting to know about a khap gathering. The Supreme Court explicitly told Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand who represented the Centre that if the government would not come out with its suggestions then the court would pass an order on those given by Ramachandran.
                                 Truth be told, Pinky Anand then sought three weeks to respond to the suggestions that was granted by the court which will now hear the case on February 5. A non-government organisation, Shakti Vahini had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in 2010 demanding a ban on khap panchayats. The PIL had highlighted specifically that khaps were against inter-caste and intra-caste, as a result several people had been killed in the name of honour.
                                  All said and done, even if now Centre didn’t ban illegal activities of khap panchayats then it has no moral right to accuse the judiciary for stepping in as the Apex Court has warned also of doing so! Supreme Court must be applauded for sending the right message to Centre in no uncertain terms and for also making it absolutely clear that khap attacks or attacks by anyone else on couples is illegal and cannot be justified under any circumstances! It also has made clear that adult couple have every right to marry as per their choice and who are these khap panchayats to intervene in between when it is none of their business to do so!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.
0
Let me say this most categorically: If there is one High Court which is reputed for seldom going to strike, it is none other than Delhi High Court. It is only when something very serious happens that Delhi High Court Bar Association decides to go on complete strike. One such rare occasion was on 25 January, 2018. That is why even I was awestruck on reading in the news that the Delhi High Court Bar Association has called for strike on 25 January.
                                Sure enough, there were compelling reasons for the lawyers of Delhi High Court to go on a complete strike on 25 January. The Delhi High Court Bar Association resolved to abstain from work on Thursday, i.e. 25 January, as a mark of solidarity against a recent  dastardly attack on two senior and eminent advocates of the Delhi High Court – Kirti Uppal and Vikas Pahwa. As per a resolution passed by the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, another attack had been staged against advocate Ravi Sharma, when two of his vehicles parked in the courtyard of his house were burned.
                                       Be it noted, these three advocates who have been attacked have together been supporting firmly the cause of a lady advocate. The matter reportedly pertains to lodging of a stalking case against a woman lawyer, who was then allegedly dragged out of her residence by the city police to arrest her despite court orders against coercive action. What is even more despicable is that the lawyers are now being themselves personally attacked!
                                       What can be more disgraceful than this! This should not have happened at the first instance! How will courts function normally if advocates themselves are subjected to personal attacks and even their vehicles are not spared?     
                                      As per the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, even though the FIRs have been registered by the lawyers, the attitude of the police “looks lackadaisical and deliberate protracting”. The police must wake up its ideas! This is a very serious charge!
                                          Needless to say, Delhi police must go all out to make the necessary amends in this direction and ensure that the culprits who attacked the lawyers are swiftly brought to book and strictly punished in accordance with the law! Delhi High Court Bar Association is reputed all over the world for always working in the most professional manner! What is said by its Executive Committee has to be taken most seriously by the Delhi police and steps must be taken by it promptly to restore the faith of the lawyers of Delhi High Court in the police!
                                          To put things in perspective, the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association then asserts that, “The Executive Committee is unanimous of the view that the present situation is an extra ordinary in nature in as much as these heinous acts have been executed with the intention to overawe and strike terror in our community by using inflammable substances, in a manner so as to cause injuries or loss of life and damage/destruction of property in order to terrorize the Advocates to refrain from performing their professional duties. The Executive Committee feels that this act of terror threatens the statutory duty of lawyers to conduct themselves fearlessly and with dignity in defending a client.”
                                            To be sure, The Executive Committee also feels that inspite of registration of these FIRs by the lawyers and personal meeting of the Members of the Committee with the Police at the highest level apprising them about the nexus and also providing them with the CCTV footages of these criminal acts, adequate and proper attention is not being given to the matter and their approach looks lackadaisical and deliberately protracting.  The Committee further states that Proxy Counsels have been appointed for every Court and a list will be displayed on the notice boards as well as outside every Court room.”   
                                   Who can deny that attacks on lawyers in past few years have increased manifold? But what is most concerning to note is that now even the lawyers and that too senior and eminent lawyers like Vikas Pahwa and others are not safe even while practicing in the High Court and Supreme Court! The lawyers of Meerut are most concerned for his safety apart from Delhi because his father – KK Pahwa too is an eminent criminal lawyer in Meerut Bar and I consider myself fortunate to having interacted with him some years ago! Moreover, Vikas Pahwa is a legal luminary whose articles keep coming even in national newspapers like ‘The Times of India’ which I have the privilege of reading myself even though I have not personally met Vikas Pahwa ever till now! But he and his father are always appreciated and held in highest esteem by the lawyers here!   
                                                Anyway, coming back to the main subject, the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association on January 24 passed a resolution condemning the attacks on 9th and 22ndJanuary on the properties and cars of senior advocates Vikas Pahwa and Kirti Uppal who is also the President of Delhi High Court Bar Association by using inflammable substances. Not just this, a similar incident the lawyers claimed had taken place on 4th January when the two cars – Maruti Swift and Honda Amaze which were parked in the east Delhi house of advocate Ravi Sharma were torched by unidentified persons. Police itself admitted that attempts were made to set ablaze Vikas Pahwa’s Greater Kailash office building and cars on 9th January!   
                                          Vikas Pahwa who is also a member of the Executive Committee revealed that, “There is a complete ban. No advocate appeared in courts and no evidence was recorded in any case. We are holding a peaceful protest and have removed our bands. The Bar is also preparing a writ petition seeking an SIT probe into the incident.” Who can question this demand for SIT probe? There must be SIT probe and truth must come out as to who all are behind this dastardly attack on three eminent and senior lawyers of Delhi High Court. All the shops in the court complex are also shut following the Bar’s call and even Judges left their chambers on seeing the lawyers strike!
                                             It goes without saying that the lawyers all across India stand firmly and fully with these 3 senior and eminent advocates of Delhi High Court in this hour. It is the bounden duty of both Centre and Delhi government to ensure that full protection is given especially  to senior lawyers so that no harm is caused to them or to their property in any manner! They must not back away from it! Who is safe if lawyers themselves are not safe and that to in our national capital? No one! Needless to say, the strike by lawyers of Delhi High Court on January 25 stands fully and firmly justified and it was imperative to highlight the attention of the government to make serious efforts in this direction and to also ensure that police gets rid of its complacency that is too visible in this entire case!    
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.     

0
How can Karni Sena made up of few totally orthodox self-styled Rajputs no matter what the provocations are indulge in ordering its members to forcibly stop showing of film Padmaavat? How can they decide that which film is to be shown and which film is not to be shown? How can they decide that what should be shown in a film and what should not be shown in a film?
                                            How can members of Karni Sena or any other member of any other group issue a reward of Rs 5 crore or 10 crore on the nose of Deepika Padukone as has been done actually? How can they still continue to roam free and be at large without being arrested by police or anyone else? How can they attack buses of children going to schools threatening the very safety of innocent children and scare them to the extent that we can’t even dream of and vandalize the buses in which the children are travelling as has happened actually at many places and still be at large?
                                        How can they vandalize cinema halls, burn vehicles whichever comes their way and yet police sees everything like a mute spectator? How can Karni Sena overrule Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) which has cleared the film after making the necessary  cuts and order its members to make sure that it is not shown in any cinema hall? How can Karni Sena even overrule Supreme Court which has directed States to ensure that the film Padmaavat is shown without being restricted? How can Karni Sena be above the law of the land and do whatever it feels like without any fear of anything? How can Karni Sena proclaim that above Supreme Court there is the court of the people and with the help of their people who are nothing but goons will ensure that the order of Supreme Court which is the highest court of the land is blatantly disregarded?
                                                How can Karni Sena members beat up anyone who wants to see the movie Padmaavati and yet not be arrested by the police? How can the state administration turn a blind eye to the open violence cycle perpetrated by Karni Sena in roads, streets, cinema halls, shops and anywhere they feel like and just condemn it by indulging in nothing but only and only lip service meant for public consumption? How can Karni Sena block roads, highways, burn vehicles, smash vehicles and indulge in violence, arson and loot without being stopped by the police in any manner?
                                                    How can Karni Sena order any person to not see the movie which they feel has insulted their culture? How can Karni Sena openly threaten naked violence and destruction and yet not be arrested promptly? How can Karni Sena mock at our laws and openly dictate that what they decide will operate as law and nothing else can replace it?
                                          How can Karni Sena suddenly emerge out of the blue and start vandalism and violence wherever they want to stop the film Padmaavati from being screened? How can Chief Ministers of the State ignore their Constitutional duty and allow Karni Sena to do whatever they want? How can Karni Sena declare that they will burn all those cinema halls wherever the film Padmaavati is being screened?
                                            How can Karni Sena members openly wave weapons on streets and burn vehicles and vandalise any shop, mall etc wherever they want on the pretext of opposing the film Padmaavat? How can Centre and all those States where this open orgy of unrestricted violence is panning out tolerate all this quietly? How can Karni Sena brutally burn vehicles, injure people, smash toll plazas, burn cinema halls, vandalise shops and do whatever they like as has actually been happening not just in small cities but even in big cities like Ahmedabad and others?                
                                           How can Karni Sena members openly throw stones and injure school children as we saw in Gurugram, etc and yet not be arrested? How can Karni Sena members openly threaten cinema hall owners all over the country to not show the film Padmaavat and if they dare to do then their cinema halls will be vandalized and burnt down as has happened also in different parts of India? How can Karni Sena members claim that they will do this openly and State government and Centre will not be able to do anything to stop them?
                                                   How can Centre and State tame surrender itself in front of Karni Sena and abdicate their legal obligation to provide safety to the cinema hall owners as well as the people from being harassed by the members of Karni Sena and allow them to do what they want to do with just little or no action on the ground being taken? How can Karni Sena start governing the country without being elected or without fighting even a single election? How can Karni Sena start behaving like the dictators and order that no one can disobey what they order and law also has to bend in front of them?            
                                             How can Karni Sena behave like super PM and super CM and dictate what movie the people will see and what movie they will not see? How can Karni Sena order cash rewards for killing or maiming the actor and actresses who shooted in the film Padmaavati without being even arrested or rebuked by the police or anyone else? How can Karni Sena be allowed to hold the prestige and reputation of our entire country to ransom by openly making a mockery of the elected government both in the Centre and in the States and threatening to do all such acts which are not just illegal but a crime?
                                   At a time when PM Narendra Modi is trying to enhance the country’s image at Davos while attending the World Economic Forum, what message is Karni Sena sending? Who would like to invest in India if untrammelled violence by Karni Sena is allowed to go on like this which should have been contained at the first place? How can Karni Sena be above the law of the land?
                                             No organization can so brazenly disregard all rules and regulations and impose their own Talibani farmaan because if Karni Sena is today allowed to do so then tomorrow many more organizations representing different religions and castes can also start imposing their own brazen diktats and start indulging in huge violence, mayhem and destruction if their whimsical orders are not complied with fully! The members of such fringe groups like Karni Sena should have been arrested well in time as a precautionary measure and released only after it was ensured that the film has operated peacefully! But, most unfortunately, this was not done and the consequences are there for all of us to see for ourselves!
                                              Needless to say, Centre as well as State Governments wherever violence breaks out on a large scale cannot escape from their liability of failing to act well in time to prevent the huge violence that breaks out within no time when members of such radical groups like Karni Sena start assembling on the roads in huge numbers and with dangerous weapons in their hands! It is the duty of the Centre and the State Governments to provide security to the people who want to see films and ensure that vandalizers and anti-social elements are not allowed to have the last laugh by indulging in unrestricted violence and looting – all in the name of protecting the culture of Rajputs! Even I myself don’t favour distortion of history by making such controversial films like Padmaavat which has generated so much of controversy and will never see this film but violence and vandalism in the name of protecting culture is just not acceptable!  
                                        This is just not done! It cannot be justified under any circumstances! When we can not just tolerate but accord red carpet welcome to Pakistani invader Gen Musharraf who masterminded Kargil war in which we lost more than 600 soldiers and that too just after 2 to 3 months of the Kargil war and who presented Rs 1 lakh cash prize to dreaded Al Qaeda terror leader Iliyas Kashmiri for presenting him a severed head of an Indian soldier Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar as was reported also in all English dailies and hailed terrorists as freedom fighters and had even threatened to nuke India during Kargil war and even after attack on Parliament was contemplating to do so then  why can’t we be similarly tolerant of the film Padmaavat and its producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali who is not a Pakistani invader like Gen Musharraf who himself conceded that he had entered about 15-16 km inside Indian  territory during Kargil war just the night before war began to boost his soldiers morale to brutally kill Indian soldiers like Captain Saurav Kalia and 5 soldiers of 4 Jat Regiment were killed after mercilessly torturing them for 22 days maiming them, blinding them and not sparing even their private parts and then finally shooting them on their heads and those Pakistani soldiers who did all this were rewarded by Gen Musharraf? Still why we never see such anger against Gen Pervez? Gen Pervez was even honoured by many big media houses yet we didn’t see any anger anywhere that time!  Honour for Gen Pervez Musharraf and hatred for Padmaavat cannot be justified under any circumstances! I strongly condemn it in strongest words!   
                                          Such despicable and barbaric acts which shames us so much internationally cannot be justified under any circumstances and those organizations whose members indulge in such mindless violence must be not just brought to book but also must be made to pay for all the damage done so that no one again dares to indulge in violence and vandalism! But this never happens because of lack of political will! Not just this, the main reason why those indulging in violence are not promptly arrested is that parties don’t want to antagonize any particular class as they constitute a major votebank and doing so will cost them dearly in the upcoming elections! How can self-serving politicians allow this?
                                       This alone explains why supporters of powerful groups like Baba Ram Rahim are able to do what they like without being stopped by police or any other security forces as they are instructed by the political class to not take any action unless they are specifically ordered! We saw how when Baba Ram Rahim was arrested and sent to prison after being sentenced in a rape case, violence erupted on a large scale as his followers were not arrested in time nor stopped from marching to the place where he was being tried! Many innocent people lost their lives as a consequence!
                                         This is what is drastically dragging India backwards and a bold way has to be evolved to deal with it before it engulfs our whole country and endanger the well being and prosperity of our great nation! Centre must now step up the gas and so must all the States and take strictest possible action against those goons who don’t spare even children and school buses in the name of protesting against Padmaavat! If this is not done, even God cannot help our nation from being merged in violence and vandalism which will ultimately destroy our nation!
                                     Can any true Indian ever allow this to ever happen? Certainly not! So we must cultivate compassion and tolerance even for views and persons with which we don’t agree just like we saw when Pakistani invader Gen Pervez Musharraf was accorded a red carpet welcome in India by all major parties and media houses! Violent protests can never be allowed nor should they be allowed by the Centre under any pretext and they cannot be justified under any circumstances! Those who indulge in it must be swiftly arrested and made to pay for all the losses that they have caused! Why protesters never destroy their own property if they are so much angry? Ponder!    
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh. 
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Let me begin at the very beginning by first and foremost pointing out cogently that in a big blow to Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), President Ram Nath Kovind approved the Election Commission’s recommendation to disqualify 20 party MLAs for violating the law against holding the office of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries. This was disclosed in a government notification. This is certainly by all parameters a very big jolt for the AAP which it has been candid enough to admit also and has revealed that it would take legal recourse.
                                          While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that this landmark step by the President comes two days after the Election Commission submitted its report deeming the AAP lawmakers as “unfit” to continue as MLAs. So the President was left with no option but to disqualify these 20 AAP lawmakers. There can be no denying or disputing this!
                                     For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that under the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act 1991, an MLA cannot hold any post in the Government that entitles them to perks or powers unless a law has been passed to exempt the posts. The disqualification of the 20 lawmakers shall not dent in anyway the Kejriwal’s Government’s majority in the Delhi Assembly. But still it is a big setback for the AAP which cannot be denied!
                     What the law says
                              It is imperative to know what the law says in this regard. Article 102(1)(a) of the Constitution says that a person shall be disqualified from being a member of either House of Parliament if he holds any office of profit, among other grounds. Article 103 says if a question arises whether a member has incurred such disqualification, it will be referred to the President’s decision. The President shall obtain the Election Commission’s opinion and act accordingly. Article 191(1) contain a similar provision for MLAs and MLCs in the States. Legislators in Delhi are covered by corresponding provisions in the Government of National Capital Territory Act, 1991.
                    Office of profit
                               Simply put, the office of profit rule is meant to insulate the legislative from the executive so that people who make laws are not influenced by their positions. The term has not been defined anywhere but the Constitution bans MPs, MLAs from holding positions in the government they are ministers. An office of profit does not necessarily mean financial benefits. Even an administrative position without any financial entitlements can fall foul of this law.  The NCT Act very specifically says that those with office of profit can be disqualified by the President on advice of the Election Commission which is binding. Sonia Gandhi had quit as MP in 2006 and sought re-election since she was NAC chairperson. Also, Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan lost her seat in 2004 for UP film body position. So what has happened with AAP MLAs is nothing new.
                        Disqualified MLAs

                              Before proceeding ahead, it would be instructive to mention here the names of these 20 AAP MLAs who are facing the axe of the Election Commission of India which recommended to the President to disqualify them! Also, the names of their constituencies and their nearest rivals in 2015 State Assembly polls must be also mentioned. They are as follows: -
Constituency            AAP                  Department
Chandni Chowk  Alka Lamba              Tourism
Dwarka              Adarsh Shastri           I&T
Burari                Sanjeev Jha               Transport
Wazirpur           Rajesh Gupta             Health           
Najafgarh          Kailash Gehlot            Law
Rajinder Nagar Vijender Garg              PWD
Jangpura           Praveen Kumar          Education
Narela               Sharad Kumar           Revenue
Kasturba Nagar  Madan Lal Khufiya     Vigilance
Moti Nagar    Shiv Charan Goyal             Finance
Rohtas Nagar   Sarita Singh                  Employment
Mehrauli       Naresh Yadav                      Labour
Janakpuri     Rajesh Rishi                       Health  
Gandhi Nagar Anil Kumar Bajpai             Health        
Sadar Bazar    Som Dutt                           Industries
Kalkaji       Avtar Singh              Gurudwara Elections
Mundka     Sukhbir Singh Languages & Welfare of SC/ST      
Kondli      Manoj Kumar       Food and Civil Supplies        
Laxmi Nagar  Nitin Tyagi   Women and Child and Social Welfare     
Tilak Nagar Jarnail Singh        Development 
                                   To recapitulate, the controversy over the “office of profit” started soon after the AAP’s victory in the 2015 Assembly elections in Delhi. On March 13, 2015, the Kejriwal Government passed an order appointing 21 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries to make them happy. These were those 21 MLAs who could not be appointed as Ministers. So they had to be accommodated somewhere and so they were chipped in as Parliamentary Secretaries!   
                        Biggest turning point
                          
                                       Truth be told, this was challenged by a lawyer Prashant Patel who petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee on June 19, 2015, that these MLAs were holding ‘office of profit’ and should be disqualified. This was the biggest turning point! It is solely and solely because of this young and dynamic lawyer Prashant Patel Umrao just 31 years old that these 20 MLAs have had to leave their seats! Prashant who practices in Delhi High Court and Supreme Court said that, “Today, my hard work of three years has paid off. I believe that the law will finally catch up with the offending MLAs. I am least bothered about whether the AAP government is derailed or not. All I know is law should not be bent.”  The petition was forwarded to the Election Commission for its recommendations. Initially, the petition was directed against 21 MLAs but one of the MLAs – Jarnail Singh of Rajouri Garden had resigned last year to contest against Parkash Singh Badal in the Punjab Assembly elections. So there were then 20 MLAs left.
                                         Needless to say, the notification issued by Law Ministry on January 20 quoted the President stating that the office of Parliamentary Secretaries was not exempted from the ‘office of profit’ rule. The President is bound by the recommendation of the Election Commission. Under the rules, petitions to the President seeking disqualification of MLAs are referred to the Election Commission.
                                       To say the least, the notification issued by Law Ministry quoting the President stated explicitly that, “…Having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission, I, Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, in exercise of the powers…do here hold that the aforesaid 20 members of the Delhi Legislative Assembly stand disqualified from being members of the said Assembly”. It is most hurting to see that AAP has termed President Ram Nath Kovind’s order disqualifying 20 of its MLAs for holding offices of profit “unconstitutional” and “dangerous for democracy”. What President does must be always respected and it cannot be overlooked that the present President Ram Nath Kovind is himself a lawyer who has practiced not just in Delhi High Court but also in the top court that is Supreme Court and so whatever he does it will be only after taking into consideration all the factors and his long experience as a senior lawyer will help him immensely always in coming to the right conclusion!
                              Be it noted, the notification also made it clear that, “In the present case, it is not in dispute that the respondents were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministers of Delhi Government by the order of March 13, 2015. Then, the Delhi High Court in Rashtriya Mukti Morcha set aside this order on September 08, 2016. Thus, it is evident that from the date of their appointment on March 13, 2015 till the date of setting aside their appointment order on September 08, 2016, the respondents were de facto holders of the office of Parliamentary Secretaries, albeit, by way of illegal appointment order and, hence, the present proceedings before the Commission on the question of their disqualification is maintainable and shall continue.” It merits no reiteration that the President’s approval of the Election Commission’s recommendation paves the way for the by-elections in the 20 Assembly seats, giving the Opposition BJP and the Congress a golden opportunity to increase their tally. The BJP has four seats in the House and the Congress has none.  
                                   To put things in perspective, in its recommendations, the Election Commission said that, “…the respondents did hold de facto the office of Parliamentary Secretaries from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016 and the interpretation as sought to be put by them on the order dated September 8, 2016 of the Delhi High Court that they did not hold any office is not legally tenable. Hence, without prejudice to the merits of the case, the reference relating to the question of alleged disqualification of the respondents under Section 15(4) of the GNCT of Delhi Act, 1991 for holding the said office survives and is maintainable in respect of all the said respondents, except respondent no. 16 (Jarnail Singh, MLA of Rajouri Garden) who has resigned his office as MLA on January 17, 2017 and even a by-election has been held in April to fill that vacancy in the Delhi Legislative Assembly”.
                                    It cannot be lost on us that in December 2015, the Election Commission issued notice to the petitioner to furnish relevant documents and subsequently, the hearing on the issue started after the MLAs were also served notices asking for their response. The legislators submitted that they had not drawn any pecuniary benefit from the post and therefore, they were not liable to be disqualified. It would be pertinent to note that the issue also  came up before the Delhi High Court which on September 8, 2016 had set aside the appointment of MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries ab initio as the State government had not taken the concurrence of the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor. The affected MLAs then argued before the Election Commission that Prashant Patel’s petition was rendered infructuous owing to the High Court decision. But in June 2017, the Election Commission held that the legislators did hold de facto the office of Parliamentary Secretaries.  
                                   Let me hasten to add here that in its opinion to the President, the Election Commission had said that, “Whether or not the individual Parliamentary Secretaries had actually derived the benefits or participated in executive functions of the Government is of no relevance” as the Supreme Court in the Jaya Bachchan case had laid down that if the post falls under office of profit, the disqualification is imminent. The Election Commission had also cited several judgments including the case of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha whose appointment as Chief Minister was invalidated by the Apex Court in 2001. The Commission had said that it is basing its opinion on judicial pronouncements of the past, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Constitution. All the 20 AAP MLAs had approached the High Court on January 19 with the Judge adjourning the matter for hearing.
                                     It may be recalled here that soon after sweeping the Delhi elections in 2015, the AAP government passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification), Act, 1997 to exempt the post of Parliamentary Secretary from the definition of office of profit with retrospective effect. It may also be recalled that on March 13, the Government had appointed the 21 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries, saying that they won’t take remuneration and hence it didn’t fall under the office of profit regulations. It also cannot be ignored that later, the AAP Government tried to push a Bill through Delhi Assembly, giving protection to Parliamentary Secretaries under Office of Profit law. But, the then President Pranab Mukherjee did not give his assent to the Bill and rejected the amendment in June 2015. The same month, an advocate Prashant Patel petitioned the President seeking their disqualification on office-of-profit charge. The petition was referred to the Election Commission.
                                   Responding to allegations that the Election Commission finalized its opinion in the office of profit matter against 20 AAP MLAs without hearing their arguments on the merits of the case, the new Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said that the parties had two opportunities to request the Election Commission to hold hearings but they didn’t. When asked about the Election Commission’s last ruling of June 23, 2017, which states that the Commission will intimate the next date of hearing in “due course”, Rawat said that, “These (two) notices were issued only for that (purpose). If they felt the need or imperative for oral evidences, then they should have pointed it out and we would have fixed a date for hearing. But you (AAP) are not talking of that. You are talking of something that is already known to the Commission.” The two notices that Rawat referred to were issued to the party MLAs on September 28 and November 2, 2017, in which they were asked to file their written submissions on the information provided by the Delhi government with regard to the offices of Parliamentary Secretaries.
                      Relevant case laws
                                The Election Commission in its recommendations said that  the Supreme Court in the case of Maulana Abdul Shakur vs Rikhab Chand (1958) had defined the concept of office of profit under the government. The court said the government’s power to appoint a person to an office, or to keep him in that office, or revoke his appointment at its discretion, and payment from government revenues were important factors in determining if one held an office of profit. Payment from a source other than the government revenue was not the decisive factor.
                                 In Pradyut Bordoloi vs Swapan Roy (2001), the Supreme Court outlined the following questions for the test: whether the government makes the appointment; whether the government has the right to remove or dismiss the holder; whether the government pays the remuneration; what are the functions of the holder; does he perform them for the government; and does the government exercise any control over the performance of those functions?  Three other rulings were cited to highlight the grounds on which a distinction between the holder of an office of profit and of a post/service under the government could be made.
                               In Guru Gobinda Basu vs Sankari Prasad Ghosal (1964), the Apex Court said that, “But all these factors need not coexist. Mere absence of one of the factors may not negate the overall test. The decisive test for determining whether a person holds any office of profit under the government, the Constitution Bench holds, is the test of appointment; stress on other tests will depend on the facts of each case.” The court said the final query was, whether, on account of holding of such office, would the government be in a position to influence him so as to interfere with his independence in functioning as an MLA and/or would his holding of the two offices involve a conflict of interest.
                        It has to be noted that while citing the judgments, the Election Commission said the AAP MLAs were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries by the Delhi government, which exercised control over them. The government had the power to remove them, their work was allocated by Ministers concerned as delegated authority and expenses of their offices were paid from government revenues. The Election Commission then concluded that, “There could be no dispute that the office of Parliamentary Secretary was an office under the government.”
                                Also, when the former President Pranab Mukherjee referred the complaint by lawyer Prashant Patel who way back in March 2015 had complained that these 21 AAP legislators were occupying offices of profit to the Election Commission, it had said in last June that the MLAs “did hold de-facto the office of parliamentary secretaries. A parliamentary secretary assists a minister, and the office comes with perks similar to those that ministers get. Therefore they had to be disqualified and that was done accordingly!     
                           Conclusion
                              All said and done, now that the President has approved the disqualification of AAP MLAs, the 20 assembly constituencies will automatically fall vacant as soon as the President signs the recommendation letter. The elections will have to be held within six months. It is highly unlikely that the High Court or Supreme Court will now after such a long time step in and stay the disqualification as AAP MLAs want.
                               It is notable that the Delhi High Court in September 2015 while reacting to another private petition had struck down the posts of parliamentary secretary in September 2015. It will certainly not be an exaggeration from any angle to say most categorically that, “AAP has just no option but to again gear up for fresh elections in these constituencies”!  
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.
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