| Kendrapara civil court. Telegraph picture |
Kendrapara, Dec. 27: Lawyers in this coastal district have decided to stay away from defending those accused in cases of sexual assault, molestation and eve-teasing in the wake of the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi.
However, the decision of the Kendrapara District Bar Association has evoked mixed reactions with its propriety and legitimacy being questioned in certain quarters.
Following the Delhi incident, lawyers of the district were the first to refuse to defend two youths who were arrested on charges of eve-teasing and produced before a local court.
The two accused, Rashmi Ranjan Muduli, 28, and Uttam Das, 29, were produced before the court of sub-divisional judicial magistrate Madhumita Mohanty. Muduli and Das had allegedly passed lewd remarks at some girls of a local government-run science college.
The girls raised an alarm and the local people nabbed the youths and handed them over to police on December 24. They were later arrested. As no lawyer turned up to defend the two-youths, the SDJM remanded them in 14-days judicial custody.
“After we decided not to defend the accused, no lawyer extended legal assistance to them,” said Kendrapara district bar association president Dhruba Charan Jena, adding that the majority view in the lawyers’ body was to desist from legally helping the culprits in such cases.
“We thought of sending a stern massage to molesters. The mass movement against the Delhi gang rape has aroused us. So we decided not to extend legal assistance to offenders involved in sexual molestation and eve-teasing offences. However, there was some opposition from a section of lawyers,” said Jena, adding that the lawyers’ body had not imposed the decision on its members. He said the association is optimistic that the move would pay dividends.
The move, however, has been questioned even within the fraternity. “A lawyer’s duty is not just restricted to giving relief to a client but also to assist justice. Whether somebody is guilty of any offence can only be established after the conclusion of a trial. Hence, a decision by lawyers not to defend an accused is unethical and amounts to misconduct,” said Gopal Krushna Mohanty, chairman of Odisha State Bar Council.
“No Bar Association can pass a resolution not to defend any rape accused (or any accused) as it goes against the provisions of Advocates Act, 1961,” said Piyush Mishra, secretary of Orissa High Court Bar Association.
“The lawyers’ body has infringed upon the professional right of legal practitioners,” said former district and sessions judge Krushna Chandra Kar.
“Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty and according to law, a person facing trial ought to be guaranteed of his defence. There are instances of false rape and molestation cases being foisted against people to settle personal score and vendetta. Thereby the spirit of law stands defeated by depriving legal aid to such persons,” said All Odisha Bar Council executive president Manas Ranjan Mohapatra.