Thursday, May 23, 2024

Srinagar DM cracks the whip on lawyers’ body; its rulebook terms J and K ‘disputed territory’

Kashmir and Jammu don’t have much in common by way of weather, culture, food habits or ethos either. The disparate regions were brought together by Dogra king Gulab Singh in 1846. In fact, Ladakh too had nothing in common with these two regions but become a part of the evolving Dogra empire at that time in 1841. Till last year, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh remained welded together as a state.

The three regions, however, do not follow one another in most spheres as naturally as English alphabets J, K and L do. Jammu is dominated by Hindus, Kashmir by Muslims and Ladakh by the Buddhists. The coming together of the three regions can perhaps be described loosely as a historical accident.

The Union Territory of J&K has two different bar associations, or bodies representing lawyers. Bar Association of Jammu (BAJ) is an entity to which most lawyers in the Jammu region are affiliated. The association in Kashmir calls itself as Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA) but it has nothing to do with lawyers of the Jammu region. Its footprint is limited to Kashmir valley and it has been dominated for long by lawyers having close ties with separatist and secessionist elements.

For several years, Mian Abdul Qayoom, who was earlier put in jail under Public Safety Act (PSA), led this association. He was considered very close to separatist pro-Pakistan Syed Ali Shah Geelani. As such, he remained virtually unchallenged as few lawyers, if any, ever challenged either Mian Qayoom or his team of office bearers.

All this may change in the near future as the district administration in Srinagar has stopped the association from holding its elections. On Monday, District Magistrate Shahid Iqbal Chowdhury issued three notices to the Bar Association. He has barred it from holding elections and imposed prohibitory orders in the district court complex.

The DM has questioned the association about its constitution which describes J&K as a “disputed territory”. He has sought relevant documents from them regarding the article of association, registration papers and its constitution. These actions forced the association to conduct a general meeting to deal with the situation.

Advocate Zaffar Shah will head a committee that will look into the issues raised by the district administration. An ad hoc committee has will also be constituted till the conduct of elections. This committee will have contesting candidates and some others as members.

It may be mentioned that a young lawyer, Babar Qadri, was killed by terrorists at his home in Srinagar on September 24 after he went Live on Facebook and criticised Mian Qayoom and some of his colleagues. Babar’s father said that his son was a vocal critic of the methods and tactics adopted by several lawyers in Kashmir.

Babar was a known face on TV also and used to appear in debates. Babar’s father Yaseen had accused Mian Qayoom of coming home to him in 2016 and asked him to reign in his son. Babar was told to remain silent and not be critical of others, his father alleged.

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