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Bar Association scraps executive body after wrangling

By Rana Ajit, IANS,

New Delhi : The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has scrapped its executive committee months ahead of its regular election following charges of misappropriation of funds and irregular functioning by its secretary.

The trading of charges reportedly led to a physical duel between association

vice-president Priya Hingorani and secretary Pareena Swaroop.

The executive panel of the SCBA, the country’s most prestigious body of advocates, decided to scrap itself last week, within days of suspending its secretary Swaroop on various charges.

Five days after being suspended, Swaroop pasted a pamphlet outside former SCBA president M.N. Krishnamani’s office on Jan 16, accusing Hingorani of assaulting her in the SCBA secretary’s office.

“I have been physically assaulted by Priya Hingorani. I’m constrained to close SCBA indefinitely. I tried to contact you, but you were not available on phone,” Swaroop complained in her notice pasted outside Krishnamani’s office.

The 17-member executive committee met last Tuesday and decided to dissolve itself. It set up an interim panel of three former presidents – K.K. Venugopal, P.P. Rao and P.H. Parekh – “to take care of SCBA administration in place of the executive committee”, according to its resolution.

Swaroop told IANS she had been assaulted because “I had been trying to set right many irregularities in the SCBA office, which was not liked by several people”.

“There was no accountability for a sum of Rs.30 lakh which had gone missing from SCBA’s fund over the years. I was trying to trace that money and was also trying to regulate the expenditure, for which I was assaulted,” she alleged.

Denying this, Hingorani said Swaroop raised the “bogey of assault after her suspension from the post of SCBA secretary and to dilute the charges on which she was suspended”.

Krishnamani ordered Swaroop’s suspension after he received a complaint against her, signed by 11 SCBA executive members, who accused their secretary of wrongdoings on 36 counts.

As per Krishnamani’s order, despite due approval by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and the SCBA executive panel, Swaroop managed to stop the construction of an SCBA library and consultation room by writing to the apex court secretary general that there were large-scale structural alterations in the construction.

Accusing the SCBA of indulging in commercial activities, Swaroop wrote to income-tax authorities opposing the advocates’ plea to grant tax exemptions under section 80G, causing a huge embarrassment to the SCBA, Krishnamani wrote in his order.

Swaroop recently tampered with some SCBA documents, related to her suspension earlier during her earlier tenure as secretary in 2007, when too she had been suspended “due to some grave financial misconduct,” Krishnamani wrote in his order.

“She unauthorisedly launched a drive to recruit new members for the bar against the executive decision against the move,” said Krishnamani.

He alleged that during the farewell function of an apex court judge recently, she paid the food caterers at the rate of Rs.110 for the first 600 plates and at the rate of Rs.170 for another 200 similar plates.

“For the same food supplied by the same caterers for the same function on the same day, how can be there two bills,” he asked, while ordering Swarop’s suspension.

(Rana Ajit can be contacted at [email protected])