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Kamlesh Behl loses fight against Law Society

The Society's plea that it did not subject Behl to racial and sexual discrimination was accepted.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt

The first Indian-origin solicitor to become vice-president of the powerful British Law Society and in line to be the first-ever woman and Indian to be its president, Kamlesh Behl, lost her long fight against her ouster from the Society.

An Employment Appeals Tribunal, reversing the finding in her favour in 2001 that she was sexually and racially discriminated against by the society, its then president and secretary general, accepted the plea by the Law Society that she was not subjected to such discriminations that she alleged were the causes behind her exit.

The ruling has come after a three-year long legal battle that has run up a legal bill of £2.5 million for the society, the professional body for solicitors in England and Wales. It has also reportedly almost ruined Behl financially. But it is not as yet the end of the matter.

Behl, who was "shocked" at the decision, has vowed to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights, according to her husband Nitin Lakhani. She said that it was very difficult to fight against the Establishment and charged that the Tribunal was part of it.

Behl, a former Chairman of Equal opportunities Commission, had resigned in 1999 from the society, when an internal inquiry upheld against her the charge by five of its staff that she bullied them. She felt that she was hounded out as she, a woman and the first Indian-origin solicitor, was slated to become president of the society.

But, the London Employment Tribunal in 2001 overturned the findings of the internal inquiry and held that she was sexually and racially discriminated against. Now the Appeals Tribunal has reversed that finding. The Law Society welcomed the decision and said it would help draw the line under the matter.

Behl said the past three years have been hell for her. "It is very difficult to bring and sustain a case against the Establishment because of the imbalance of resources. There were eight lawyers on the other side."

But she denied suggestions that she had turned down large offers of money from the Society to settle the case. "They wanted to discuss a settlement but kept changing their minds about a public statement. They have never been serious about a settlement."

She is apparently set to mount further challenges, despite lack of resources. It may be resolved through the help of many Asians who still believe that there is a hidden discrimination against them in the legal profession.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST