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Kathua rape, murder case: SC raps up Jammu lawyers’ for obstruction of justice

New Delhi, Apr 13: Taking strong note of some lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the Kathua gangrape and murder case, the Supreme Court Friday initiated a case on its own record saying such impediment “affects the dispensation of justice and would amount to obstruction of access to justice”.
The top court said that it is a settled law that a lawyer who appears for a victim or accused cannot be prevented by any bar association or group of lawyers, for it is his duty to appear in support of his client.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was also critical of the Jammu High Court Bar Association, which had passed a resolution not to attend the courts saying “it is the duty of the bar association as a collective body and they cannot obstruct the process of law”.
“If a lawyer who is engaged, is obstructed from appearing in the court or if his client is deprived of being represented in the court when he is entitled to do so in a lawful manner, that affects the dispensation of justice and would amount to obstruction of access to justice and interference with the administration of justice,” the bench said in its order.
The top court took initiated the case suo motu after some lawyers brought to its notice that the members of the Kathua District Court Bar Association at Jammu & Kashmir, are obstructing the lawyer who is appearing on behalf of the family of the victim in the court.
Advocates P V Dinesh, Shobha and Gopal Shankarnaraynan informed the court that a lawyer appearing for the victim’s family was being threatened and the obstruction has support of high court bar association.
The top court said, “It is settled in law that a lawyer who appears for a victim or accused cannot be prevented by any bar association or group of lawyers, for it is the duty of a lawyer to appear in support of his client, once he accepts the brief.”
The bench issued notice to the Bar Council of India, the state Bar Council, High Court Bar Association at Jammu and Kathua District Bar Association and sought their replies by April 19.
“We hope and trust that when we are issuing notice, the members of the bar associations shall conduct themselves and would not obstruct the smooth functioning of the justice delivery system which includes the presence of the persons aggrieved or accused in court or for that matter the presence of investigating agency and the witnesses,” the bench said.
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 the case be handed over to the CBI for further investigation and said that thorough probe was being carried out by the state crime branch.
Alam said that it is already a settled law that investigation cannot be transferred to the 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.
Earlier in the day, the top court had asked 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.
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.
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.