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

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 threatened en-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, youth and female lawyers assembled in Jammu and Kashmir High Court complex to discussed attempts being to revoke special status of J&K. During the meeting, constitutional experts like former Jammu Bar Association president Advocate AV Gupta and former AAG, Advocate SC Gupta, spoke in support of Article 370 and 35-A. They appealed that the special status must be “retained and strengthened.”

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

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

Sharma said, “Their statement has hurt the nationalistic approach of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association as a message has gone out in the society that Jammu Bar Association might have different view on Art 35-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 his concern on the decision and said he stands firm on strengthening of Article 35-A and Art 370.

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

“Nanda was expelled from the city by then ruler and then he established his office across Jammu Tawi where from he continued his struggle for poor and illiterate Dogras because jobs were taken by the educated Punjabis and they had established properties in Jammu,” he quoted history.

Former Jammu Bar president told Greater Kashmir that it was pure Jammu’s struggle, not Kashmir’s, that lead to special rights to the people of the State. “We got Art 35-A and Art 370 after a struggle by our ancestors and later same special status without any change became part-and-parcel of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, restricting outsiders from Government jobs and property.”

The former Jammu Bar president said “a political party wants to divide the society on communal grounds.”

He attributed communal politics leading to division among two communities in Jammu to “migrant Kashmiri Pandits.”

“KPs divided communities in Jammu after migrating from Kashmir to Jammu. Otherwise, Dogras including Hindus and Muslims had no divide and they loved each other,” he claimed. He also accused Kashmiri Pandits of having hand in sparking Amarnath land row agitation in Jammu for two months.

Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed took to Facebook and expressed his anger. “Full solidarity with two eminent lawyers of Jammu Bar senior Advocate AV Gupta and former Senior AAG SC Gupta who raised their voice for retention of Article 35A,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Today’s decision of executive of Jammu Bar is highly condemnable and unconstitutional and is aimed to promote a particular ideology which is not acceptable to a sizeable lawyers fraternity and the way ban has been imposed on freedom of speech and expression by Jammu Bar today even for airing personal views speaks volumes of intolerance towards dissenting views,” he added.

Another advocate and former legislator of PDP, Mohammed Rashid Qurashi, told Greater Kashmir that the decision of Jammu Bar is one sided. “By expressing their views, senior members have not committed any such misconduct,” he added.