‘Divided’ Jammu Bar suspends 2 eminent lawyers for supporting Article 35-A

Suspended former Bar president accuses Kashmiri Pandits of communalizing Jammu atmosphere
‘Divided’ Jammu Bar suspends 2 eminent lawyers for supporting Article 35-A
File photo of J&K High Court Bar Association's Press Conference

Jammu Bar Association on Thursday suspended two eminent lawyers from basic membership and issued show cause notices to them, after they demanded strengthening of Article 35-A which has lead to division among the lawyers with regard to special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many lawyers who spoke to Greater Kashmir have threateneden-masse resignation from the Jammu Bar in support of suspended senior lawyers,while terming the decision as inspired by a political party's agenda.

Two days back, around 150 advocates including senior, youthand female lawyers assembled in Jammu and Kashmir High Court complex todiscussed attempts being to revoke special status of J&K. During themeeting, constitutional experts like former Jammu Bar Association presidentAdvocate AV Gupta and former AAG, Advocate SC Gupta, spoke in support ofArticle 370 and 35-A. They appealed that the special status must be "retainedand strengthened."

The meeting in support of special status sparked anger amongthe newly elected Jammu Bar Association body, and they, in reaction, called anexecutive committee meet. This meeting was chaired by president Jammu BarAbhinav Sharma who is also spokesperson of ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).

After the executive committee meeting, Abhinav Sharma toldjournalists that all the members of Executive Committee of Jammu Bar haveunanimously decided to suspend two lawyers including former Jammu Bar presidentAdv AV Gupta and former senior AAG Adv SC Gupta from the basic membership andthey have been asked to explain their position.

Sharma said, "Their statement has hurt the nationalisticapproach of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association as a message has goneout in the society that Jammu Bar Association might have different view on Art35-A, which is unlike national view."

He said that Jammu Bar opposes Art 35-A tooth-and-nail.

After being suspended, Advocate AV Gupta expressed hisconcern on the decision and said he stands firm on strengthening of Article35-A and Art 370.

Gupta told Greater Kashmir that during Maharaja Rule inJ&K, Jammu had launched agitation for special status for its rights underthe leadership of Roop Chand Nanda – grandfather of former minister and formerlegislator of BJP Ajay Nanda.

"Nanda was expelled from the city by then ruler and then heestablished his office across Jammu Tawi where from he continued his strugglefor poor and illiterate Dogras because jobs were taken by the educated Punjabisand they had established properties in Jammu," he quoted history.

Former Jammu Bar president told Greater Kashmir that it waspure Jammu's struggle, not Kashmir's, that lead to special rights to the peopleof the State. "We got Art 35-A and Art 370 after a struggle by our ancestorsand later same special status without any change became part-and-parcel ofJammu and Kashmir Constitution, restricting outsiders from Government jobs andproperty."

The former Jammu Bar president said "a political party wantsto divide the society on communal grounds."

He attributed communal politics leading to division amongtwo communities in Jammu to "migrant Kashmiri Pandits."

"KPs divided communities in Jammu after migrating fromKashmir to Jammu. Otherwise, Dogras including Hindus and Muslims had no divideand they loved each other," he claimed. He also accused Kashmiri Pandits ofhaving hand in sparking Amarnath land row agitation in Jammu for two months.

Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed took to Facebook and expressedhis anger. "Full solidarity with two eminent lawyers of Jammu Bar seniorAdvocate AV Gupta and former Senior AAG SC Gupta who raised their voice forretention of Article 35A," he wrote on Facebook.

"Today's decision of executive of Jammu Bar is highlycondemnable and unconstitutional and is aimed to promote a particular ideologywhich is not acceptable to a sizeable lawyers fraternity and the way ban hasbeen imposed on freedom of speech and expression by Jammu Bar today even forairing personal views speaks volumes of intolerance towards dissenting views,"he added.

Another advocate and former legislator of PDP, MohammedRashid Qurashi, told Greater Kashmir that the decision of Jammu Bar is onesided. "By expressing their views, senior members have not committed any suchmisconduct," he added.

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