In Pooja Gupta v. Bar Council of India, the Supreme Court denied a request by two female lawyers for a 30% reservation for women advocates in the Bar Council of India (BCI) and State Bar Councils.

Advocates Pooja Gupta and Julie George, two practicing lawyers from Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, respectively, filed a petition requesting to have the BCI’s directive to conduct elections to elect office-bearers invalidated.

The plea was dismissed by a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Abhay S Oka. According to the order, the writ petition is dismissed. They said that they are not inclined to hear this writ suit filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution contesting respondent No.1’s election notification dated 14.01.2022 for holding the elections of the Bar Council of India’s office-bearers.

In addition to claiming reservations for women, the petition condemned the BCI for conducting elections ahead of time.

Before 2010, elections for the Bar Council of India’s office bearers were observed in April, since the freshly elected office bearers’ term commenced on April 16. This pattern was interrupted in 2010 when the Bar Council of India began organizing its election in advance.

The election took place in December of 2015, even though the freshly elected office bearers commenced functioning in April of 2016. Likewise, office bearer elections were held in December 2017, and the office bearers’ terms started in April 2018. In December of this year, the circumstances were similar. According to the plea, such a practice was adopted despite the absence of any particular rule in this regard.

The petitioner further emphasized how the BCI extended the terms of office of the office-bearers without following protocol or statutory authorization.

The respondent Bar Council of India convened a meeting on December 25, 2021, in Delhi, and despite significant protests from 2-3 Hon’ble Members, the majority of members of the Council changed the regulation and resolved to hold the elections in hybrid/virtual form. The Council has also increased the tenure of the office-bearers, despite strong resistance from three Hon’ble Members, including the Hon’ble Member from Kerala and Karnataka, according to the appeal.

In light of the COVID pandemic, the petition also requested that BCI refrain from extending the tenure of State Bar Councils.

By disposing of the petition, the Court granted the petitioners to approach the BCI and make a complaint about the settlement of their complaint.

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