Those accused of raping an eight-year-old girl in Kathua are not humans but demons and it's shameful to support them, said advocate Ashok Arora, while addressing a gathering of legal professionals in Delhi who took out a silent march demanding strict action against a section of lawyers in Jammu for allegedly violating the professional code of conduct.
The Jammu High Court Bar Association, along with other local Bar associations, had called for a Jammu bandh on 11 April, alleging the police was targeting the Dogra Hindu community by filing a chargesheet against a few members of the community. They also demanded an enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the Kathua rape and murder case.
"The most dangerous situation in the world is one where people stand for injustice done to a child. We are ashamed that some of the lawyers sided with rapists and murderers in Jammu," Arora said.
A section of lawyers from an organisation named 'Lawyers for Democracy and Rule of Law' took out a silent protest, walking peacefully from the Supreme Court of India to the office of the Bar Council of India.
Som Dutt Sharma, who led the procession, said men in saffron can't be above the law. "People with saffron flags are not the authority to decide about who is guilty and who is not," he said, adding that a nation-wide protest will be organised to demand action against the lawyers, saying they not only tried to protect the accused in the Kathua murder case but also threatened her lawyer and attempted to prevent the police from filing a chargesheet.
Shalu Nigam, an advocate participating in the march, said it was "shocking" to see the lawyer representing the victim's family being harassed. "Being the member of a certain religious group does not allow anyone to infringe upon the rights of others," she said.
Significantly, the Bar Council of Jammu and Kashmir was also criticised for its inaction against lawyers who allegedly sided with the accused. "The council should have immediately sprung into action against the Bar associations, and taken disciplinary action against defaulting fellow members. But it appears that it is hands in glove with the unruly lawyers," Sharma added.
Nandita Rao, another protesting lawyer, said professional ethics were intentionally flouted to send across a communal message. "The lawyers know that there is always a legal remedy to any legal problem. If they truly felt that people are being wrongly accused in the case, the lawyers could have approached the court. But instead of doing that, they called for a bandh and threatened the victim's lawyer. They did this to send across a threat " that people of their community can't be indicted," she said.
However, when the march ended at the Bar Council of India office, they found the gates were shut from inside, barricades were put up, and it was heavily guarded by the police. A group of lawyers went inside the Bar Council of India office and handed a memorandum demanding strict legal action against the lawyers for flouting professional ethics. The lawyers also submitted a list of alleged violation of code of ethics by a section of lawyers in Jammu.
They further claimed the police had to submit the chargesheet at the residence of the presiding officer of the court, since lawyers were preventing it from being filed at the police station.
Alleging further professional misconduct, the memorandum alleged that BS Salathia, the president of the Jammu Bar Association, also threatened Deepika Singh Rajawat, the victim's lawyer, for pursuing the case.
An eight-year-old girl was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana village in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district in January. The girl's body was recovered on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest. The Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police probed the case and filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate chargesheet against a juvenile accused in a court in Kathua district last week.