In India, every accused is entitled to be represented by a lawyer of his or her choice. And sometimes, it is the lawyers who attract attention toward themselves, with the pattern of cases that they decide to take, or their comments in the public domain. That is precisely the case with Ajay Prakash Singh, the lawyer who will be defending the four accused in the Hathras case.
AP Singh had previously defended the accused in the 2012 Nirbhaya case and drawn media attention for making shocking comments about the victim. “Should I not ask what the girl was doing with the boy so late at night? It is part of evidence. I wasn't saying they had a brother-sister relationship or they were out to celebrate rakhi. All I said was that they are friends. Now in their society, boyfriend-girlfriend relationships must be laudable, but not in the culture I come from,” he had said.
Just watched AP Singh talking to Media adter coming out of Court..
— Karn (@01Karn) March 19, 2020
AP Singh has been hired by the Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha, headed by former Union minister Raja Manvendra Singh. He has claimed that the SC/ST Act has been misused to malign the “upper caste” community in general and the Rajputs in particular in the Hathras case. Who is AP Singh and how does he always find himself at the centre of controversial legal battles?
Born in Delhi in 1972, Singh has been practicing for the last 23 years. He graduated in law from Lucknow University and later went on to do a doctorate in criminology from the University of California. AP Singh was brought to the legal field by the controversial godman Chandraswami, allegedly involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Singh says his first two sets of robes, coats and pants used for argument were gifted by Chandraswami, with whom he also travelled to foreign countries.
16 Dec convicts’ lawyer AP Singh was a Chandraswami aide who wants a govt ministry for men
— ThePrintIndia (@ThePrintIndia) March 20, 2020
No stranger to controversy, Singh played a key role in the bail granted to Swami Chinmayanand, the former BJP leader accused of sexual harassment. “Both the girl and Swamiji had used each other and there was no coercion,” he had told the Allahabad High Court. The advocate’s pet project is to start a movement that could lead to the establishment of a commission or a Ministry of Men. “Approximately 50 to 175 men commit suicide daily in India. Most of them are tired of the women in their lives,” he says.
However, the case that brought him to the spotlight was the Nirbhaya case. He is said to be the brainchild behind filing petitions in several district courts, delaying the hanging of the convicts and making a mockery out of the system. He wasn’t only making legal maneuvers, and it was his public statements that drew a lot of ire. Referring to the circumstances leading up to the 16 December gang-rape, he said “that if his daughter had “moved around with her boyfriend at night” and had “premarital sex” he would have doused her in petrol and burnt her. In spite of the criticism, he doubled down on the comments by stating “We are Rajputs and for us honour is everything,” Singh told ThePrint. “If your wealth is gone, nothing is gone; if your health is gone, nothing is gone but if your character is gone then everything is gone.”
#WATCH Asha Devi, mother of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim: The lawyer of the convicts, AP Singh has challenged me saying that the convicts will never be executed. I will continue my fight. The government will have to execute the convicts. pic.twitter.com/VynpcSLhyp
— ANI (@ANI) January 31, 2020
While AP Singh has every right to defend his clients, it is troublesome views on women that are alarming. One hopes the case will be fought on the merits of legal arguments and not vicious slander directed towards the victim and her family, in their moment of grief. The case must reach its logical conclusion in the swiftest manner possible. As they say in the legal fraternity, “not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”.