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    The problem — Information bar

    Chandigarh, May 3
    Even as controversy rages over sanction of over Rs 2 crore to the bar council as well the bar association of Punjab and Haryana by the previous Congress government in the past four years, the under-secretary, home, Punjab, has informed the council that no such funds can be earmarked for the council in the government budget.

    The under-secretary has written a letter to the council, dated March 2, 2007, categorically stating that it being a “private organisation, which is neither a government department nor under the administrative control of the government, no provision for funds can be made for the bar council in the government budget.”

    The copy of the aforesaid letter was submitted by the public information officer, bar council, before the State Information Commission, Punjab, in a case of Jagmohan Singh Bhatti (advocate) vs Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh. The commission has further asked the council to bring information regarding the source of funds granted to the council in the year 2005-2006, along with the figures of the exact amount received.
    Importantly, the under-secretary’s assertion flies in the face of apex court judgment given wayback in 1975 (Bar Council of India vs M.V. Dhabolkar) that bar council is a “public institution committed to public justice i.e. pro bono publico.

    The uncertainty gets compounded by the reply of Harish Rai Dhanda, ex-Punjab and Haryana Bar Council chairman, given under the RTI Act, that “council is a body constituted under the law and hence not a public authority.” In fact, a resolution was passed under Dhanda’s chairmanship that the council is not a public authority.

    The implications of this ignorance of law and about the legal status of the bar council, which is a public authority established under the Advocates Act,1961, are far-reaching. It has bearings upon the current debate on the utilisation and sanction of government funds. In fact, the state information commission has been moved to ascertain the legal status of the bar council by way of a list of queries, including under what authority it was allotted the land for the Law Bhavan in Chandigarh.

    Incidentally, the Punjab government has already replied under the Right to Information Act that the former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had granted an amount of Rs 2.15 crore to the bar association and the bar council in the past three years.

    Even the Haryana Chief Minister had also announced a grant of Rs 1 crore to the bar association earlier this year. The association is a private body.

    The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Main News

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    Last edited by ganpat1956; 06-05-07 at 12:19 AM.

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