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Justice fight in habit

Thiruvananthapuram, June 25: A Catholic nun whose application for enrolment as a lawyer was rejected has approached the high court against the Kerala Bar Council’s “discriminatory” attitude towards individuals belonging to religious orders.

Justice K. Balakrishnan Nair, who heard the plea by Sister Teena Jose of the Little Flower Convent at Cherthala in Alappuzha district, has allowed her to include the Bar Council of India as one of the respondents in the case.

The nun, who belongs to the Kerala-based Congregation of Mother Carmel, has termed the state bar council’s decision “discriminatory, illegal, arbitrary and a violation of the Constitution”.

The council says its rules do not envisage persons in religious orders, like priests, nuns and monks, becoming advocates.

The nun’s fight for the robes started in January this year when the bar council rejected her enrolment application.

A law graduate from Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, Sister Jose pleaded with the council’s enrolment committee that she did not have a salaried job or profession. “Being a nun is part of my vocation and not profession,” she told the committee.

Her lawyer Wilson Urmese said priests and nuns practise at various courts in the country and that Jesuits were even enrolled in the Supreme Court. The bar council’s Advocates Act or Rules do not bar priests or nuns from becoming lawyers, Urmese added.

However, this is not the first such case in Kerala. Sister P.J. Mary and a priest belonging to the Syrian Jacobite Church had failed to get enrolment on the same grounds.

Kerala bar council chairperson K.B. Mohandas said the selection and enrolment committee scrutinises all applicants and would not comment on what was already before the court. He preferred to wait for the decision of the Bar Council of India, which would soon be posted with the case details.

Sister Jose said those on the four-member bar council committee had told her that if nuns started practising, the legal profession would become overcrowded.

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