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About High Court Bar Association

In the year 1873 the Barristers decided to form an association, called the Bar Association which came into being on February 3, 1873 with 12 European Barristers as its first members, and Mr. Jardine as its first President. The object of the Association was to consider matters connected with the interests of the Bar in the Province and especially to promote a high professional tone in all branches of the legal profession and to repress unprofessional practices.

It was two years after the Bar Association was founded that the Vakils of the High Court decided to form their own association and in 1875 the Vakils’ Association was established. The objects for which this association was formed were, “(a) To consider matters affecting the interests of the legal profession in the North Western Provinces and more specially of the Vakils, (b) To promote a high professional tone among the members of the profession, and (c) To watch the state of the law and the progress of legislation, and to take such steps as may be deemed necessary in respect thereof.” The first President of the Vakils’ Association was Pt. Ajudhia Nath who attained a very high position at the Bar. He was a fearless advocate and contributed a great deal towards the public life of the country. Pt. Ajudhia Nath was a venerable figure and looked majestic with a long flowing beard. He was the Chairman of the Reception Committee at the IV Session of the Indian National Congress held at Allahabad in 1888 where his powerful address was greatly appreciated.

It was in 1896, nearly thirty years after the High Court was established, that the Chief Justice was given ‘power to admit a Vakil to the status of an Advocate, if, in his opinion, the lawyer was of an outstanding ability and merit. Mr. Ram Prasad, Mr. J.N. Chaudhary, Pt. Sunder Lal and Pt. Moti Lal Nehru were admitted in 1896 as the first batch of Vakils to the status of Advocates. Although these four Vakils had been admitted to the status of Advocates, they refused to join the Bar Association and continued to remain members of the Vakils’ Association. The Bar Association, as mentioned earlier, was dominated by Europeans and the Vakils were in no mood to be dominated by them. Although Vakils and Barristers had their differences over smaller issues, quite often on the question of right of pre-audience, there was never any major clash between the two, except once. When the first batch of Vakils was raised to the status of Advocates, a question arose whether they could wear the same gown which was worn by the Barristers of England. The members of the Bar Association objected to it and, on this objection being raised, the then Chief Justice, Sir John Edge, decided that Vakil Advocates would wear the gown which the Chief Justice himself wore, i.e. Q. C.’s gown and since then the Vakil-Advocates had been wearing the same gown as did the Judges, till later when the rules were changed and both the Barristers and the Advocates had to wear the same gown.

It will not be out of place to mention that the two Associations (until 1957 when they were amalgamated) were housed in different portions of the High Court building, which, incidentally, happened to be at quite a distance from each other. ‘Several attempts were made right from 1929 onwards to amalgamate the two Associations; but, for one reason or the other the amalgamation could not be brought about earlier than 1957.
The Vakils’ Association continued to exist till the year 1928. After the passage of the Indian Bar Council Act, 1926, the Vakils’ Association changed its name and it became the Advocates’ Association. The Barristers’ Association which was known as Bar Association somehow assumed the name of Bar Library some time in the year 1922.

Apart from the Advocates’ Association and the Bar Library, the Bar had a third Association which had a comparatively small membership. It came into existence under unfortunate circumstances. Indian Barristers when they started practice in the Allahabad High Court and applied for membership of the Bar Library, more often than not, were blackballed and it was only in the second or third attempt that they were elected. When Mr. Nihal Chand, a Barrister, was blackballed, he refused to have anything to do with the Bar Library. In those days a Barrister was eligible for membership of the Bar Library only after six months practice in the High Court. During that period he had no option but to join the group around Mr. Nihal Chand and some of them stayed on in that group, specially as there was no admission fee and no subscription to pay. This group gradually grew and was given official recognition in 1933 by the then Chief Justice, and since then it was known as ‘High Court Bar Association’. They were also given a couple of rooms and the Association consisted of both Barristers and Advocates.

In November, 1957, the three Associations amalgamated and since then they are occupying the new building and the amalgamated associations decided to call it the High Court Bar Association. The Allahabad Bar has produced some of the greatest Judges of the country and the Court has given Chief Justices and Judges to almost every High Courts in India. This Bar gave the country not only the first President of the Constituent Assembly, namely, Dr Sachchidanand Sinha, who joined the Allahabad Bar in 1896 and remained here till 1910 when his election to the Imperial Legislative Council forced him to shift to Calcutta (the then capital of India) where he joined the Calcutta High Court, and the first Prime Minister of the country, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, but has also given (till 1966) three eminent lawyers to look after the Law Portfolio of the Government of India, namely, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, who was the Law Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council and Dr Kailash Nath Katju, and Sri Gopal Swaroop Pathak as the Law Ministers.