When the protests against government took place in Sri Lanka, the state tried to suppress them very obviously. Within the crisis and chaos emerged, an important and a progressive community which would attract attention of civil society the world over emerged in the voice of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL). The BASL went to Court to protect the civil liberties of people. Some called the BASL a voice of reason during that crisis. Recently, the BASL has even urged the Sri Lankan government to not pass an Anti-Terror law since it disproportionately affects the democratic rights of all citizens.
Why are we talking about Sri Lanka? Well, first, we are talking about BASL is to establish that lawyers and in general legally aware people are also very political people and usually stand up for fundamental rights, the protection of life and liberty of all. Second, it is to present the sharp contrast between a Bar Association’s conduct during a crisis in Sri Lanka, and the actions of the Bar Council of India—the BCI– recently during the ongoing Marriage Equality hearings in the Supreme Court of India (SCI).
Five days into the hearings of the Constitution Bench of the SCI, the Bar Council of India passed a resolution on April 23, 2023 stating that “any decision by the Supreme Court in such a sensitive matter may prove very harmful for the future generation of our country”. It is a refreshingly fresh stance that BCI has taken, to especially stand for the future generations of the country. As the statutory body that concerns itself with regulation of legal practice and legal education, to take on the mantle to represent all of India’s future generations is truly a herculean task.
“Every responsible and prudent citizen of the country is worried about the future of his-her children after coming to know about the pendency of this matter before the Hon’ble Supreme Court”, stated the resolution. Again, the BCI is now also the All Parents’ Association or at least, the Parents’ Representative. Oh, right! It is the representative of parents and therefore it also took upon itself the task to represent all future generations.
The resolution also said that Bar (Council of India-BCI) is the “mouthpiece of the common men” which is why the meeting (of all the State Bar Councils) is expressing their anxiety over the issue. It is not of any significance that there are no women in the list of office bearers in the BCI. May be therefore the careful drafting of resolution has taken place to include the word “mouthpiece of common men” instead of “mouthpiece of the people, the masses.”
Truly, the BCI personnel are master drafters.
Even the ruling BJP cannot boast of representing this vast a section of future generations, ‘responsible and prudent’ parents and the common men. It is puzzling as to why the common men’s mouthpiece-otherwise known as BCI did not pass a resolution on the Electoral Bonds issue or even released a simple statement. One might suggest, or even say, that the chairman of the BCI is a valorous supporter of the Prime Minister and therefore, the Electoral Bonds Scheme brought in by the current government was not under BCI’s minute moral scanner. I want to refute that. It seems like BCI, in its infinite wisdom, which you or I cannot seem to appreciate, has just decided that Electoral Bonds is not a common man’s issue. Even in the case of Section 370 or the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2020, the BCI seems to have employed its selective wisdom.
Additionally, the BCI also seems to have undertaken its own survey and Census of the Indian population! Now, this is an unprecedented achievement given that even the government goes through elaborate processes and challenges while conducting the census. From the apparent survey, BCI seems to have claimed that more than 99.9% of people of the country are opposed to the idea of same sex marriage.
All this together points out to the fact that the BCI can no more be restricted to its objectives as stated in the Advocates Act, 1961. After all, who will not to benefit from the infinite wisdom coupled with irrefutable data that is being provided by the BCI?
Finally, the BCI also took up the role of a historian. It said “As per documented history, ever since the inception of human civilisation and culture, marriage has been typically accepted and categorised as a union of biological man and woman for the twin purpose of procreation and recreation. In such background, it would be catastrophic to overhaul something as fundamental as the conception of marriage by any Law court, howsoever well intentioned it may be.”
As for BCI’s claim that the aim of marriage is for the twin purpose of procreation and Recreation, it is for women lawyers and feminists to respond. I am more intrigued by the vast documentation BCI must have perused to arrive at this statement.
As a citizen, you might worry about state trampling on your civil liberties, or about the fast changing nature of democracy with the advent of big money from corporations during elections, or about dangerous constitutional changes. You might also worry that you have no one to rely on, which could be true too but, there is one upside.
You can always rely on Bar Council of India to act wisely and give out a set of irrefutable facts and data; in the areas it has no expertise at all of course!
(The author is a legal researcher with the organisation)