Showing her solidarity and support to the wave of #metoo revelations that have jolted several prominent names, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising has decided to withdraw from the cases filed against Advocate Talib Hussain, who was one of the activists who first brought the rape and murder of the eight-year-old in Kathua to public attention.
Since having risen to prominence, Hussain has been accused in two cases — one by his wife and another by his sister-in-law, alleging domestic violence and rape, respectively. Meanwhile, his family had filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that they were eyewitnesses to his torture in prison. Mr. Jaising represented his family in the Supreme Court in the petition limited to an enquiry into his torture.
Ms. Jaising’s decision comes in wake of an article published by Firstpost on Saturday, accusing Hussain of raping a JNU student. The article has been published anonymously with a note that the events leading up to the assault, as described by her, are verifiable. While the article does not name Hussain, the references make it obvious that she is describing her experience with him.
The article narrates a tale that begins with the invasion of personal boundaries and culminates in rape. It says:
“I was one of those students who had invited him to JNU campus. But subsequently, in his personal conversations with me, he proved to be very invasive of personal boundaries. He asked me a lot of questions about my family, my research work, and my political beliefs.
I would not have minded any of this had he not abruptly asked me one day to do “nikaah” with him. This was in mid-April, just after his second visit to JNU. I told him that it is a very inappropriate thing to ask me. But he did not stop calling me. Often he would call me late at night; while I enquired about his safety and whether he had been given adequate protection from possible attacks, he would ignore my concerned questions and describe his sexual fantasies about me.”
She then describes another incident from April 27:
“On 27 April, he messaged me to say that he would be arriving in Delhi that evening and that I should meet him. I did not want to; instead, I went out for dinner with some of my friends…Even while I was at the Vasant Kunj PS with my friends, he kept calling me non-stop, insisting that I should return to campus at once because he was waiting outside the north gate for me…He called me 40 times that night (I noted this on my call log the next day).”
She eventually gave in and decided to meet him. She states that he, however, took her in a car to Batla House locality, ushered her into a one-room flat on the second/third floor of a building and raped her.
“My fears turned out to be right. That night, mine was NOT a feeble no. I threatened to expose him to all my friends in JNU, I pleaded with him, I even physically wrestled against his brute strength; but my resistance seemed too frail compared to his brutality. I remember crying in pain; but instead, he mocked me, saying “Tum bohot naazuk ho.” All the while he raped me, he kept insisting that he would do “nikaah” with me, as if by declaring his intention to marry he would legitimise what he was doing.”
Taking serious note of these allegations, Ms. Jaising has now decided to withdraw from his case. The move is especially commendable in view of the reignited debate on lawyers “just doing their job” while representing clients against what might come under the purview of “public interest”.
Bolstering her support for the movement, Ms. Jaising wrote for The Leaflet, “Since I had appeared pro bono, the question of returning fees does not arise. I am committed to the #MeToo movement, and stand with the student’s right to speak in the public domain without fear of reprisals. My continued appearance for Talib, even though limited to his allegations of torture, will be inconsistent with my support for the #MeToo movement. I will continue to support the family of the victim of the Kathua rape and murder.
I believe that a lawyer is not the hired spokesperson of a client, but has social obligations and public responsibilities that go beyond the profession. It is their duty to present to the Court facts as they see them. It is the obligation of lawyers to uphold public interest. My social commitment to the #MeToo movement overrides my professional engagement, and therefore I have taken a conscious decision to stop representing Talib Hussain in any court.”