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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 04:27 GMT
Law chief launches discrimination case
The Law Society
Kamlesh Bahl says she has suffered discrimination
The vice-president of the Law Society, Kamlesh Bahl, has started legal action, claiming she has been the victim of sexual and racial discrimination.

Ms Bahl had been at the centre of controversy after an inquiry found she had bullied her staff - and the Law Society's governing council had been due to decide on Thursday whether she should be suspended.

It is thought that decision will now be deferred.

'Face did not fit'

The bullying allegations against Ms Bahl were upheld last week after an investigation by retired Law Lord, Lord Griffiths.

There is a witch-hunt going on to remove me from the Law Society

Kamlesh Bahl
The Griffiths report found that Ms Bahl had humiliated and demeaned staff and introduced an "atmosphere of fear and confusion" at the society.

Concluding that she had resorted at times to "bullying tactics", the report warned she had "usurped" the role of the society's chief executive and treated staff "without due consideration".

In response Ms Bahl said she had not been treated fairly.

She said: "I am driven to the inevitable conclusion that the way in which I have been treated owes little to the matters in issue but owes more to the fact that, for a small but influential group of people, my "face did not fit" within the Law Society, given my background in industry as against private practise and my ethnicity and gender."

'Smear campaign'

Ms Bahl said she felt she had become the victim of a smear campaign.

She said one rumour being circulated was that she had to have a police escort to go into her offices at the Law Society on Chancery Lane in London.

"It's absolute rubbish," she said.

"There is a witch-hunt going on to remove me from the Law Society.

"It's been demonstrated by the whole way this matter has been dealt with."

Ms Bahl, who has been advised by employment specialist Cherie Booth QC, said she had issued Employment Tribunal proceedings against the society and unspecified "others" for sex and race discrimination.

Industrial action threat

However Law Society staff have already threatened to take industrial action unless "decisive" moves are made against Ms Bahl.

Members of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union (MSF) said there was a need for "firm and appropriate action" to be taken after complaints from five members of staff against her were upheld.

The union members, meeting in London on Wednesday, said that in the case of an employee, complaints of bullying would be viewed as gross misconduct resulting in dismissal.

The workers said they expected no less a punishment against Law Society council members.

A motion was agreed, which read: "In the event that the Law Society council fails to take decisive action, MSF will bring forward plans for necessary and appropriate action, including industrial action, to safeguard members' interests and to ensure that the dignity at work policy is consistently applied."

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