Bar Council of India can Enquire into the matters of the Kerala’s State Bar Council and Trustee Committee of the Advocates Welfare Fund

Shaunak Choudhury | Student of SVKM’s NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law | 22nd May 2020

K.N. Anilkumar v. Bar Council of India (WA. No. 422 of 2020) 

Facts

This judgement came as an appeal from the judgement made by a single judge bench in the High Court of Kerala. The matter was regarding the Bar Council of India having sufficient power under the Advocates Act 1961, Kerala Advocates Welfare Fund Act 1980, and the Kerala Advocates’ Welfare Fund Rules 1981, to conduct an enquiry into any irregularities with funds worth Rs. 7 Crores, allegedly committed by members of the Trust Committee of the Bar Council of Kerala. The Appellant is one of the accused who is challenging the decision of the single judge bench of the same High Court. The first respondent, the Bar Council of India had issued a resolution regarding the matter referring to a speech that was made by the Attorney General of India on 3rd October 2018 during a Bar Association function. As per the resolution, the Bar ordered the creation of a 4-man committee that would examine the materials surrounding the alleged misappropriation of funds. The BCI also ordered that the Advocate General of Kerala not discharge his functions as Chairman of the Special Committee or as the Chairman of Advocates Welfare Fund Trustee Committee, for the interests of justice and saving the Bar under unforeseen circumstances. The second Respondent, the State Bar Council of Kerala argued that there was no negligence on its part in administering the funds as it did so in accordance with the aforesaid acts and rules. 

Issues 

  1. Whether the power of ordering for an enquiry into the alleged irregularities and misappropriation of funds managed by the Kerala Advocates Welfare Fund Trustee Committee, is within the powers of the Bar Council of India.
  2. Whether the Welfare Fund Trustee Committee can be considered as a part of the State Bar of Kerala.

Judgement 

  1. As per section 7 (1) of the Advocates Act, the Bar Council must safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of all Advocates (sub-section d), must supervise and maintain control over the State Bar Councils (sub-section g) and may do all things necessary to discharge its functions (sub-section m). Section 12 (3) of the Advocates Act mandates that every State Bar Council must send its accounts  and auditors report to the Bar Council of India. Since the fund for the State Bar Council is constituted under the Advocates Act, the High Court found that the harmonious reading of section 7 would allow the Bar Council of India to enquire into any allegations of misappropriated funds. The Bar Council of India also has power to direct the State Bar Councils under section 48B. Since the BCI is responsible for the rules that dictates the procedure of the disciplinary committee of State Bar Councils as per section 49 (1) (f), the High Court observed that it is imperative for the BCI to intervene if it sees any deviation from the acts and rules. 
  2. The High Court asserted that the State Bar Council and the Trustee Committee of the Welfare Fund are clearly linked through the Kerala Advocates Welfare Fund 1980. Several links were pointed out such as the Committee consisting of members from the State Bar (section 4), the audit reports of the Committee having to be forwarded to the State Bar, the State Bar paying 20% of enrolment fees to the Fund annually (section 12), etc. So, this indicates that the Trustee Committee for the Welfare Fund is not entirely exclusive of the State Bar Council.

Thus, the High Court of Kerala found that the Bar Council of India has full power to enquire into the matter of the Rs. 7 Crore worth of funds being allegedly misappropriated. 

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