Kathua case: SC blasts lawyers for trying to prevent filing of charge sheet
Nobody can impede the course of justice, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, coming down heavily on the lawyers who allegedly tried to prevent police from filing the charge sheet in the Kathua rape-cum-murder case last week.
“What does the bar association have to do with the presentation of the charge sheet? You are supposed to argue your case, not protest. You have the right to practice with dignity and independence, but that does not mean you can go on a strike or stop people from appearing in court,” a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra told advocates who had come from Jammu to attend the hearing.
“Discipline of the bar has to be kept on a high pedestal. And that’s not restricted to just this case,” he added.
On April 13, the Supreme Court took serious note of lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the sensational case and initiated proceedings on its own accord. Some apex court lawyers had drawn the judges’ attention to the manner in which advocates in Jammu heckled police officers while they were filing the charge sheet in court.
Questioning the lawyers’ conduct, the Chief Justice asked: “Why was the police not allowed to present the charge sheet before the court? Why did they go to the magistrate?”
The lawyers of the Kathua Bar Association, however, denied obstructing the police. Insisting that the incident was misreported by the media, they said the association withdrew its call for a strike on April 12.
The Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHCBA) told the bench that they did not explicitly support the protest taken out by Kathua lawyers, but had expressed solidarity for a different reason. Speaking on its behalf, senior advocate Vikas Singh also denied that the victim’s lawyer, Deepika Singh Rajawat, was prevented from appearing before the high court in this regard. “She was prevented in another case, not this one,” he submitted.
The Bar Council of India (BCI) told the Supreme Court bench that it has constituted a team headed by a former high court judge to visit Kathua and assess the situation pertaining to the lawyers’ protest.
The bench asked the JHCBA and BCI, among others, to file their affidavits by April 24. The matter was listed for hearing in the following week.
The gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in January evoked shock and outrage across the country. Even as the trial in the case got underway on April 16, the victim’s father asked the Supreme Court to shift it to Chandigarh because the atmosphere in Kathua was “not conducive” for a fair hearing.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered police protection for the girl’s family and asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to file a response to their plea for case transfer.