Long March of The Supreme Court Bar
From its very inception, the Supreme Court Bar Association has been in the vanguard of the movement for upholding, maintaining and consolidation of the constitutional values of democracy, rule of law and independence of Judiciary. In its meeting dated 4th May, 1951, the Executive Committee of the Bar Association consisting of legal luminaries like M. C. Setalvad, C. K.
Daphtary and K. M. Munshi spoke of their deep concern against the first amendment of the Constitution. The Committee in its resolution observed that no attempt should be made to abridge or limit the Fundamental Rights. The Committee further pointed out that the Constitution was in operation only for a short period of sixteen months and the Supreme Court had no occasion to pronounce on the validity of various State laws. The Executive Committee also condemned the proposed move to combine the office of Law Minister and Attorney General as a threat to independence of Judiciary. During the first decade itself, the Bar Association showed its humane concern for poor litigants and decided to have its own Legal Aid
Scheme. It came forward to raise its voice against the contempt notice issued by Patna High Court against the defence lawyer who had written an article against the report of the Law Commission. The Supreme Court Bar Association has thus maintained its fraternal links with other Bar Associations in India. It also showed its concern for the indigent and infirm members of the Bar who needed financial support. During this first decade, the Supreme Court also showed interest in the legal research by becoming a corporate member of the Indian Law Institute.
A major landmark of the march of the Supreme Court Bar Association was in the tumultuous period between 1970 and 1980. During this period, the historic decision in Keshavananda Bharati case was pronounced by the Supreme Court laying down the implied limitations on the constitutional power of the Parliament to amend the basic structure of the Constitution. Three eminent judges of the Supreme Court, Hegde, Shelat and Grover JJ were superseded and Justice A. N. Ray was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on 25th April, 1973. The political powers at that time were enraged at the various decisions of the Supreme Court including Keshavananda Bharati and attempted to encage and emasculate the Judiciary. The ostensible reason put forth by the Government was to have the judges who are "forward looking" and understood "the winds of change". The Supreme Court Bar Association, the other Bar Associations in the country and the public opinion rose with one voice against this onslaught on the Judiciary. Justice Hidyatullah J represented an emotional concern of the Bar in one word. Hidyatullah J said that this was an attempt of not creating 'forward looking judges' but the 'judges looking forward' to the plumes of the office of Chief Justice. Shri C. K. Daphtary described 25th April, 1973, as the blackest day in the history of democracy.
On 26th April, 1973, the Supreme Court Bar Association passed a resolution strongly condemning the supersession and called upon all Bar Associations in India to observe 3rd May, 1976 as a 'Bar Solidarity Day' and to abstain from court
work. The call was enthusiastically supported by most of the Bar Associations all over India. Two resolutions are reproduced for the benefit of the new members of the Bar to show how the Supreme Court Bar Association in the most trying and adverse circumstances stood up unitedly to fight against the attack on democracy, rule of law and independence of Judiciary.
"OUTRAGEOUS ATTEMPT AT UNDERMINING THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY.
This meeting of the Supreme Court Bar Association strongly condemns the action of Government in superseding three highly eminent and able members of the Supreme Court Bench in the appointment of Chief Justice of India.
This Meeting is convinced that the action of Government is a purely political one and had no relation whatever to merits of the appointment, more so when one considers the timing and the manner of the appointment. It is a blatant and outrageous attempt at undermining the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary and lowering the prestige and dignity of the Supreme Court.
The action clearly shows that Government cannot tolerate or countenance an independent Judiciary in India. Our Judiciary and our Supreme Court has been held in the highest respect not only in our country but all over the world. The people of our country for whose welfare the Government professes to work have relied on the Judiciary as perhaps the only bastion for the preservation of democracy and the rule of law. We appeal to public opinion in India and to all the Bar Associations/Bar Councils in India to raise strong protests against the attempt on the part of the Government to make the Judiciary subservient to the Executive and subject to political pressures and dependent on Government patronage and influence.
This Meeting is further of the opinion that the present Chief Justice should not have accepted this High Office out of a sense of loyalty to his colleagues to the Supreme Court and in order to maintain the independence of Judiciary and the highest traditions of administration of Justice."
"CALL TO OBSERVE "BAR SOLIDARITY DAY"
This Association is of the view that Thursday, the 3rd May be observed as the "BAR SOLIDARITY DAY" throughout the country as a protest against this attempt by the Executive to subvert the Independence of Judiciary. On this day the Members of the Bar will not attend Courts but will take necessary steps to arouse Public opinion in favour of the Independence of Judiciary.
We appeal to all the members of the Bar throughout the country to observe this day.
Copies of this resolution be sent to the Press, the Bar Councils and all the High Court Bar Associations."
The landmark development in the eighties are the three decisions of the Supreme Court regarding the appointment and transfer of judges in higher Judiciary. This was at the initiative of the Advocate on Record's Association of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court asserted its primacy on the appointment, transfer of judges and bid to end the monopoly of the Executive. The independence of Judiciary is thus established with the bold initiative taken by the Bar. By the end of 1979, the Bar Association decided to celebrate 26th November every year as a "Law Day" to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution. The resolution is reproduced to permanently keep before the members of the Bar a commitment of the Bar to uphold the Constitution.
"WE hold the Law is the common heritage and trust of mankind, that administration of Justice is one of the most fundamental functions of the State, and that Judges and Lawyers owe their allegiance, by the traditions, training and tenets of their noble profession to the cause and quest of Justice.
WE believe that the discipline of Law is indispensably essential for the authoritative and peaceful resolution of all maintaining the rule of Law, for promoting social justice for safeguarding liberty and for protecting basic human rights and fundamental freedom.
WE affirm that the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the freedom and independence of the legal profession constitute the sheet-anchor of social order, individual freedom and equal justice in our society.
WE acknowledge the social responsibilities and the professional obligations of Law in Public interest and public service.
WE emphasize, in particular, the need to ensure equal and universal access of the people to the system of justice, especially to the poor, the weak, the deprived and the down-trodden, the need for legal literacy and legal aid, and the need for social audit and evaluation of laws and for scientific rational and pragmatic law reform.
WE pledge and dedicate ourselves on this, the LAW DAY, to the premises and postulates of this proclamation."
The bird's eye view of the various resolutions and the activities of the Supreme Court Bar Association in the last 50 years show the initiative and leadership of the Supreme Court Bar Association in various matters concerning the Nation and problems of the Bar.
The Supreme Court Bar Association joined the national movement against the eclipse of democracy during the Emergency proclaimed in 1975. The Bar actively canvassed for restoration of democracy, abolition of MISA and DIR and holding free and fair elections. It raised strong objections against the 42nd Amendment which was aimed at giving arbitrary powers to the Executive and curtailing the judicial review. It also showed concern for rule of law and democracy in the neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The Bar Association rendered positive help by raising funds for wars with Pakistan, cyclones, earthquakes. The Bar opposed inequitable terms of the settlement of compensation to the victims of Bhopal gas and its Executive to intervene in the pending case in Supreme Court. The Bar did not falter to protest against the conduct of the
Chief Justices and the Judges of the Supreme Court which tended to
compromise judicial independence and integrity. It also took introspective steps to control the eminent members of the Bar who had gone astray from the exemplary professional conduct and professional ethics. The Bar Association also contributed to the amendment of the Supreme Court Rules and the Procedure and Practice in the Supreme Court. From its very inception, the Supreme Court Bar Association took interest in establishing Bar Council for maintaining professional standards in the profession and legal education.
In the last decade, there have been some major incidents which were likely to shake the confidence of the people in the judicial system. SCBA took strong initiative to voice its concern and to play constructive role. For the first time, a judge of the
Supreme Court of India was impeached by the Parliament for corruption. The Bar intervened in the pending litigation in the Supreme Court as the concerned judge had not resigned and was purporting to do judicial work. In another case, the then Chief Justice disclosed in the Court that one gentleman was trying to interfere with the Hawala case then pending and had tried to meet the Chief Justice and the Hon'ble Judge of the Supreme Court. The Bar took exception to this mere expression of displeasure by the then Chief Justice and passed a resolution urging the then Chief Justice to start contempt proceedings against the said gentleman.
The long march of the Supreme Court Bar Association will continue to uphold the Constitution, Rule of Law and Independence of Judiciary as well as the professional equipment and ethical standards of the members of the Bar. It is a never ending journey and calls for eternal vigilance.
We propose to keep the members of the Bar informed of the various activities of the Supreme Court Bar Association through last fifty years on the SCBA Website.