On Monday, lawyers from the Kathua Bar Association prevented members of the state police from filing a chargesheet in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, in the case of rape of an 8-year-old girl from Rasana village in Jammu’s Kathua district. The lawyers in fact took pride in mobilising to prevent the police team from presenting the accused before the magistrate, taking measures to even physically block their way. The President of the Kathua Bar Association on the same day passed a resolution to keep work under suspension until April 12, while also calling for and supporting a complete Kathua and J&K bund on April 11.
An 8-year-old girl, belonging to Bakarwal-Gujjar (and Muslim) community was raped and murdered in January. She had been drugged and held captive for almost a week inside a temple, before being murdered. As part of broader conspiracy to create fear amongst the Bakarwal community, the accused persons abducted and raped the minor girl. The community and the family have been socially ostracised post the incident, with the family not even being allowed to bury the child in the village of their dwelling. In fact, last year in April in Reasi district the Bakarwal community was targeted by cow vigilantes, who perpetrated violence against individuals from the Bakarwal community.
In connection with the rape case, nine accused, including the alleged mastermind Sanji Ram, his son Vishal Kumar, a police head constable, two special police officers (SPOs) and a sub-inspector of police have been arrested in the case.
Involvement of BJP-RSS
The actions of the Kathua Bar Association follow closely on the heels of the march taken out by Hindu Ekta Manchin February. BJP-RSS communal agenda reached a new low in the country when the recently formed right wing group Hindu Ekta Manch (headed by state BJP secretary Vijay Sharma), took out a 3000-4000 strong rally demanding the release of the accused, Deepak Khajuria. Giving the entire incident a communal flavour, the representatives of the Hindu Ekta Manch termed the accused’s arrest as ‘jihad’. Those participating in the march also used the national flag.
A growing pattern
While there are nascent reports of FIR being registered against the lawyers who obstructed the filing of the chargesheet, these actions of defending the largely Hindutva factions in case of rape of a minor, should be seen in the background of the consistent communal propaganda being pursued by BJP and RSS. Not long before this incident, members of a right wing group stormed the Udaipur District and Sessions court in order to support Shambhu Lal Regar, who killed a Muslim man on live camera. Regar’s criminal acts continue to be valorised by people supporting Hindutva ideology. In 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar was beaten up inside Patiala House Court premises, while being produced for his court hearings. It was found out later that the lawyers involved forced him to chant “Bharat mataki jai”.
The broader trend of “legal activism” by right wing groups is of course emerging in the backdrop of the first edition (2012) of the All India Hindu Convention, an annual convention jointly organised by the Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate group the Hindu JanajagrutiSamiti in Goa. At the first edition, the organisers had called for Hindu lawyers to defend members of the community who were jailed and facing trials in various cases across the country. This demand was reiterated in the sixth edition of the convention in June 2017, which was reportedly attended by 132 Hindu outfits. Consequently, several nationalist legal-rights groups that are headed by former RSS members or members of its legal wing, the Akhil Bhartiya Adhivakta Parishad have cropped up.
Given this, we note that:
▪There has been an increasing trend within the legal community to browbeat or intimidate people based on divisive or communal agendas;▪In various instances as pointed out above, lawyers have taken law into their own hands. Lawyers, being the officers of the court have the first and foremost duty to protect and uphold the sanctity of the legal regime; and
▪Rule of law cannot be thwarted at the hands of any communal or political agendas.
We at IAPL strongly condemn the communal propaganda of the right wing organisations and the lawyers who are obstructing justice, instead of upholding the due process of law. We believe that all people should have access to the courts without intimidation or fear, however these incidents where lawyers are involved in intimidation and assault, do not inspire confidence amongst the general public. Such actions are likely to influence or hinder the application of principles of natural justice.
Therefore, we demand that the Kathua Bar Association withdraw its resolution which is arbitrary and unconstitutional, stop interfering in the investigation, and let the justice system take its course. We demand a free and fair investigation and trial in the matter.
Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj
(IAPL, Vice President)
Adv. Surendra Gadling
(IAPL, General Secreatary)