Ensure Kathua girl's family has access to justice, Supreme Court tells Jammu and Kathua bar associations
The Supreme Court on Friday took suo motu notice of an incident of lawyers of Jammu and Kathua bar associations preventing a woman lawyer from appearing for the family of a rape victim.
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today took a serious note of lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the Kathua gangrape and murder case and initiated a case on its own accord saying such impeding of the process of law "affects the delivery of justice".
The top court said that lawyers' bodies have solemn duty to not obstruct advocates representing the accused or the victims' family in the courts.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud sought responses on the conduct of lawyers from Bar Council of India, Jammu and Kashmir Bar Council, Jammu High Court Bar Association and Kathua district bar association by April 19.
"In our considered opinion no lawyer can prevent the advocates representing the accused or victim's family in the case," the bench said.
It sought reply from bar bodies on various aspects including the question whether lawyers representing victim or accused can be stopped from appearing in the court by another group of lawyers.
"Obstruction of process of law and delivery of justice, and that too by lawyers cannot be condoned and is unethical. Access to justice cannot be impeded by lawyers," the bench said.
It said that every party before any court is entitled to engage a lawyer and if advocates oppose this principle then it would be destructive of justice dispensation system.
"It is impermissible under law and is unethical to prevent filing of charge sheet or oppose representation of victim's family by lawyers," it said.
The bench also took note of the fact that Jammu High Court Bar Association has passed the resolution to protest and not to attend the court and said that "it is solemn duty of the bar to not create obstruction".
The apex court agreed to take the suo motu cognisance of the matter after several lawyers of the apex court pointed out the incident in which agitating advocates at Kathua district obstructed police from filing of charge sheet in the court yesterday.
Standing counsel for Jammu and Kashmir Shoeb Alam, who was called to the CJI court informed that the police had yesterday filed the charge sheet before the magistrate at his home.
He strongly opposed the plea of lawyers that case be handed over to CBI for further investigation and said that thorough investigations were being carried out by the state crime branch.
Alam said that it is already a settled law that investigation cannot be transferred to CBI after the charge sheet has been filed in the court.
"Police team was heckled by the lawyers and prevented from submitting the charge sheet before the Chief Judicial Magistrate court in Kathua," Alam said.
He said that subsequently the police had to produce the eight accused in the case and submit the charge sheet at the residence of the magistrate.
Alam informed the court that police have also registered a FIR against some lawyers for attempting to prevent police from filing charge sheet in Kathua rape case.
A group of lawyers including P V Dinesh, Gopal Shankar Narayanan and Shobha Gupta said that an advocate for victim's family was also given threats and obstructed from appearing in the court.
Earlier in the day, the top court had asked a lawyer P V Dinesh to bring materials on record to take judicial note of a strike call given by Kathua and Jammu and Kashmir bar associations in relation to the gangrape and killing of the eight-year-old girl in Jammu region.
Dinesh referred to the "unfortunate" decisions of the local bar that had allegedly come in support of the people who had gangraped and killed the minor in Kathua.
"Something must come on record. We have nothing on record," the bench had said in the morning, when the matter was first mentioned.
Dinesh submitted that the apex court should take note of bar's actions and issue directions to them and the Bar Council of India to ensure that the rule of law prevails.
The minor girl had disappeared from near her home in the forests next to Rasana village in Kathua, on January 10.
Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The Crime Branch of police which probed the case filed a main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district earlier this week.
The charge sheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged, raped inside a place of worship before being killed.
Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal incident.
The bar associations have been opposing the action against the accused, alleging that the minority Dogras were being targeted.
Lawyers took to the streets shouting slogans and trying to block the road outside the court where the charge sheets have been filed.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Police chief S P Vaid today asserted that all necessary steps will be taken to provide protection to the family members of the child.
"We will do whatever is required and take care of it. Nothing to worry about," Vaid said when asked about alleged threats to the witnesses, including the family members of the victim.
On the demand by some people for a CBI inquiry into the case, the Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police said, "Only they (those demanding CBI probe) can answer this. Why they don't have trust on the same J&K police which is fighting a war in Kashmir."
"I am satisfied with the investigations and am sure the people who committed this heinous crime on an eight-year-old child must get severest possible punishment," Vaid said.
"The state crime branch did a commendable job in spite of the fact that initially the investigation was not done in a professional manner. There were some attempts to destroy evidence," he said.
The DGP noted that the police has taken action against its own personnel who were involved in the crime.
"We took action against our own two policemen -- two SPOs -- who were involved in this heinous crime. The Special Investigation Team of Crime Branch went about the investigation in a professional manner, systematically collecting evidence and scientifically pursuing the case. Now, they have produced the challan (charge sheet) in the court for judicial determination," he said.
Vaid, however, refused to comment on whether any action would be taken against those people -- including two state ministers -- who attended a rally in support of the accused persons in Kathua.