Kashmir’s ‘150 lawyers’ form new body, BAR says ‘mischievous’ attempt

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At least 150 young lawyers have come together to form “Kashmir Advocate Association (KAA)” that according to them would work for the welfare of the lawyers in Kashmir valley.

The association is led by its founder Advocate Waseem Gul, who told The Kashmir Walla that the new association has been formed under Advocate Welfare Fund Act 1997.

Gul said that during the peak of Covid-19, many young lawyers were without work and faced financial crunch. “It will work for the wellbeing of the young lawyers, who otherwise feel marginalized at the time of crises. The aim of the association is to work for the betterment of the young lawyers, who have no one to look up to during tough times,” said Gul.

However, a senior lawyer said that the aim behind the KAA is likely to create a parallel body against the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA) in the valley.

“It is an open secret that the BAR association is not in good books with the government. So, it is likely that the motive behind this new association is to create an opposition against the BAR to have a narrative that suits the government’s agenda,” senior lawyer said.  

In November 2020, Srinagar administration barred the BAR association from holding its internal elections until the lawyer organisation clarifies whether it considers Kashmir a “dispute” or an integral part of India.

The BAR association constitution refers to Kashmir as a “dispute”.  It had requested the Srinagar administration to grant them permission to hold its internal election, which was first delayed by the detention of its president Mian Abdul Qayoom, following the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August 2019 and then by the pandemic.

Post the imposition of prohibition by the district administration preventing the BAR association from conducting elections; it formed an ad hoc committee headed by senior advocate Nazir Ahmed Ronga as its chairman.

The BAR association also constituted another committee, headed by senior advocate Zaffar Ahmad Shah, which looked into the issues raised by the district administration.

Talking with The Kashmir Walla, the BAR association chairman Ronga dismissed the formation of the KAA and termed it as a “mischievous” attempt to disintegrate the BAR in the erstwhile state.

“I don’t think there was any need to have a separate body of lawyers in the valley, when the BAR already exists here. This new association doesn’t have the legitimacy to take up the concerns of the lawyers with the authorities,” said Ronga.

Ronga said that the emergence of any new lawyers association would only “harm” the BAR who has been already working for the welfare of the lawyers.

“I believe it is the doing of people who have some vested interest. Otherwise, when BAR has been representing the lawyers body, what is the point of creating a new association,” Ronga said.

“We already have a policy to free legal aid and services to victims of human right violations, prisoners and people under trials, as well for the welfare of our people,” he said. “Rather than forming separate associations, these lawyers can sit with us and sort out their issues.”

Ronga said they have also been working on the objection raised by the administration to allow BAR conduct its internal elections.

“We have replied to the administration to provide us the papers under which provision and basis they have objected to the BAR elections. But we haven’t received any reply from them so far,” Ronga said. “Our preparation for the elections is in a full swing and we are finalizing the voters list.”

However, Gul said that the purpose of the association is not to have a separate body against the BAR but to bring together like minded lawyers to work on a common agenda.

“We have members across Kashmir who have joined hands to work together for the betterment of the fraternity. There is no vested interest behind forming this association. We are apolitical and neither have any affiliation with the government,” he said.

Advocate Mubashir Majid Malik, who is the vice-president of the KAA, and also a member of the BAR association, said that there is no “hidden agenda” behind forming this new association.

“Just like there are many NGOs working for the welfare of people, the same is the case here. The aim is not to create a wedge among the lawyers, but to work together for the common goal,” said Malik.

“There is also a misconception that in J&K only JKHCBA exists. But every district has its own BAR association. Having a different organization doesn’t mean that there is a vested interest behind it. I am also a member of JKHCBA,” he said.  

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