Senior advocates, vying to be elected as president of the Advocates Association, go to great lengths to ensure juniors vote for them. First it was wine, women and song, and then mobiles and laptops. Now it is yearly subscriptions of expensive law books
Each year, the elections for the post of president of the Advocate Association come around like clockwork and the atmosphere in the lawyer-circle changes drastically.
Illustration/Jishu Dev Malakar
The desire to land the plum post has always brought about major competition among the candidates and senior advocates contesting the election, have been known to go to great lengths to ensure a strong vote bank.
Two years ago, the trend to woo young lawyers reportedly gravitated around free tokens to enter dance bars, unlimited alcohol parties, and gifting of mobile phones and laptops.
This year however, the trend has changed and candidates are allegedly 'gifting' yearly subscriptions of expensive law journals and reference books to their juniors and contemporaries.
A senior lawyer who has been witnessing these acts for years, requesting anonymity, said, "Some even hire girls to please their voters, while others take prospective voters to dance bars for entertainment."
Going by the book
Meanwhile, a prominent senior criminal lawyer said that this year some candidates preferred to throw parties for juniors at resorts and hotels with unlimited alcohol, but many gave out yearly subscriptions of 'All India Reporter', a law reference journal costing over Rs 60,000.
Meanwhile, the current President of the Advocates Association and presidential nominee for this year also, preferred to maintain a spotless reputation.
"While filing out the nomination application, we were asked to sign an affidavit stating that we would abide by the rules and not indulge in any kind of acts or gestures to woo voters. I have heard of such things, but I steer clear.
This year I have implemented developmental work worth Rs 60 crore and will continue to do so. My voters are only too happy to vote for me since I have proved a great deal by my work," said Puttegowda, current president of the Advocate Association and presidential nominee for the upcoming elections.
Meanwhile, many junior advocates asserted that they had received reference books from one of the presidential nominees.
A call was made to presidential nominee Subba Reddy, but his assistant Ismail answered. He said, "Sir is busy in a meeting, but with the elections coming up, he is distributing free reference books. I don't know the name of the book."
Two years ago, when a group of lawyers approached the judge following reports of senior nominees wooing voters (junior lawyers) by distributing gifts, the elections had to be postponed.
"After preliminary investigations, it was found that certain senior advocates and nominees had indulged in such acts in exchange for votes. Senior judge N Kumar took cognisance and passed an order, which laid down the basic guidelines of elections and etiquette to be followed during the course of elections.
Post this, computerised cards for voters was introduced," said Shankrappa, Chairman (Library Committee), Advocates Association and presidential post nominee this year.
He further alleged, "This year nominees are not openly distributing gifts, but have spent a lot of money to woo voters and distribute freebies. Many have even distributed money and taken their juniors for lavish parties," Shankrappa added.
While Advocate General B V Acharya refused to comment, retired Justice M F Saldanha asserted that elections held for any powerful position often brings about the darker side of those involved.
"Today, such things happen even in the housing society elections. Every position that is a power centre tends to bring about such acts," said Justice Saldanha.
He added, "I've been a judge in the HC for 10 years and I've seen how lawyers look up to their president and some even deliver good work. These elections have been disputed twice or thrice and guidelines have been laid down so that the process is cleansed of such practices.
I don't know if giving out book subscriptions can be an infringement, but obviously the person who has given a subscription has paid money for it - so it might hold as an offence," he added.
Saldanha said that the HC has frowned on acts involving anyone trying to entertain their voters lavishly and if the matter is taken up and concrete evidence is available, then the court can pass suo moto resolutions and even lay down directives against these practices.