'Lawyers for Democracy and Rule of Law' has written to the Bar Council of India (BCI) demanding disciplinary action against lawyers of the State of Jammu and Kashmir who had allegedly called for a strike in defence of the accused in the matter of rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.
In a letter addressed to BCI Chairman Mr. Manan Kumar Mishra, the Lawyers' body asserts that while the Bar Council of Jammu and Kashmir should immediately have sprung into action, it has not done anything so far as it appeared to be hand-in-glove with the accused lawyers. It then asserts,
"It is the duty of the Bar Council of India to ensure that the lawyers conduct themselves within the bounds of law and professional ethics. The whole country is disturbed and dismayed over the way the Bar Associations and its lawyer members at Jammu have behaved in a lawless manner. The conduct of the lawyers at Jammu has shamed the entire legal fraternity in India. Now only the Bar Council of India can take remedial measures so that prestige and dignity of the legal profession, so badly shattered, maybe salvaged."
The letter points out that the lawyers had not just called for a strike but had also prevented members of the state police from filing a chargesheet in the matter in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
It further highlights the fact that the Jammu High Court Bar Association had called for a Jammu Bandh, as well as objects to the use of the national flag by the lawyers in meetings. The letter states, "Mr. B.S. Slathia, the President of the Jammu Bar Association even issued a warning to the government, as per reports, that "today the Jammu youth was agitating with the national flag, but tomorrow they would have A.K. 47 rifles in their hands if their demands were not met."
Besides, the body also noted that the Bar Associations have demanded ouster of Rohingyas from the region, threatening that they would take matters in their own hands if adequate steps are not taken by the authorities.
It then submits that the lawyers of the Jammu Bar Associations have thus indulged in "serious acts of misconduct", alleging that the Bar Associations resorted to "extrajudicial methods" in defence of the accused, and asserting that their actions are "nothing short of subversion of the rule of law".
Thereafter, highlighting that Ms. Deepika Singh Rajawat, the Counsel appearing before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on behalf of the victim's family has also been threatened by her fellow lawyers, it demands initiation of suitable disciplinary action against such lawyers.
Evidence of gang-rape and murder found
In January this year, an eight-year-old girl belonging to Bakarwal-Gujjar community was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana village in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district. Her body was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.
The available evidence suggests that she was brutally gang-raped before being murdered. According to a report in The Print, a post-mortem report indicated damage to the girl's uterus and death due to asphyxiation.
According to another report, Sanji Ram, a retired official of the revenue department is believed to have masterminded the heinous crime as a part of a broader conspiracy to create fear among the nomad 'Bakarwal' (goatherd) community in the village, so that they could be pushed out. Sanji Ram is, in fact, the custodian of the temple where the girl was allegedly held in captivity.
The Police has, so far, arrested nine accused, including Ram and his son, a police head constable, two special police officers (SPOs) and a sub-inspector of police.
To make matters worse, lawyers from the Kathua Bar Association had last week prevented members of the state police from filing a chargesheet in the matter in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate. The lawyers allegedly "took pride" in mobilizing to prevent the police team from presenting the accused before the magistrate, even physically blocking their way. On the same day, the President of the Kathua Bar Association passed a resolution to keep work under suspension until April 12, while also calling for and supporting a complete Kathua and J&K bandh on April 11.