Lawyers raise the Bar in council election

Demand-driven

The reason is not fear of defeat, but dread of the demands made by their fellow lawyers across the State for casting their votes. The demands range from the legitimate such as libraries, furniture, TV sets and water filters for the lawyers’ associations in various cities and towns of the state, but also less legitimate such as parties in star hotels etc.

The high cost of campaigning, particularly the expenditure on ‘parties’ have deterred many aspirants, who are pulling out of campaign. Anticipating the welter of demands, many did not even contest, as indicated in the decrease in the number of contestants this year.

The process for elections, held every five years, begins on June 9 this year and will last 25 days. Even as the calendar was being announced, there was festive atmosphere in the 183 lawyers’ associations across the State, in anticipation of good times being had.

“Unlike in elections to the legislature or other elected bodies, it is not professional politicians who contest in these elections, but voters themselves, i.e., lawyers. While in elections to constitutionally mandated bodies, it is the politicians who let the voters down, in these polls, the likelihood is that it is the voters who let down the contestants. That is why we see fewer  contestants this time,” says a lawyer.

“During the last elections 120 lawyers were in the contest. This time, on April 30, the last day for submitting nominations, only 103 were in the fray. Of them, many are likely to withdraw their nominations on the last day, May 11. It is obvious that the unreasonable demands of the electors is the reason for the dipping enthusiasm among poll aspirants,” says Jayakumar S Patil, president of the Bar Council.

In that background, those who are brave enough to stay in the fray are either those who have the confidence or charisma to win on the strength of their reputation, or those who are able to spend up to Rs 10 lakh, some lawyers say.

Twenty-five members are elected to the Council from all over the State. The elected members then cast votes to choose the president and vice-president. As the election costs the council up to Rs 25 lakh, cash deposits of the contestants - Rs 15,000 each, revert to the council.

So, why are candidates prepared to spend up to Rs 10 lakh?

“It is just a matter of prestige,” says Y V Sadashiva Reddy, former president of the Bar Council.

“The word of the Council member carries weight. For instance, if an ordinary lawyer makes a statement about the judiciary, it can be viewed as contempt of court. But if the same statement is made by a member of the Council, he/she can get away with it,” he says.

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