Kathua case: A statement that didn’t catch the eye of the BCI

Bar Council of India submitted before the Supreme Court that Kathua Bar didn’t obstruct J&K Crime Branch from filing charge sheet on April 9, despite a Kathua Bar press release boasting of the same

Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Ashutosh Sharma

The Bar Council of India on Thursday submitted before the Supreme Court that lawyers' body in Kathua didn’t obstruct the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir police from filing a charge sheet on April 9. The BCI said that the lawyers' body had neither obstructed the Crime Branch from filing the charge sheet in the court concerned, nor had the lawyers obstructed advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat, who is representing the victim's family, from appearing in the matter before the high court there. The report also said that the demand of J&K High Court Bar Association, Jammu and Kathua District Bar Association for a CBI probe in the matter appears to be justified.

But it seems that a statement issued by the Bar Association Kathua escaped the attention of the five-member BCI committee headed by former chief Tarun Agarwal, which visited Jammu on April 19 on the directions of the Supreme Court.

While the pictures and videos of unruly lawyers physically blocking the Crime Branch from filing charge sheet in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Kathua on April 9 had gone viral on social media, the charge sheet in Kathua rape and murder case could only be produced before the CJM at his residence late in the evening, around 9.30 pm on April 9.

The Kathua Bar in a press statement that was issued a few hours earlier, had boasted of how it obstructed filing of the charge sheet: "All the members of the Bar have strongly agitated against the presentation of challan (charge sheet) by the crime branch in the Rasana case… the agitation of the bar proved successful and the crime branch was compelled to go back and the challan could not be presented in the court of chief judicial magistrate Kathua.”

The statement, tweeted by dozens of Twitter users, can be seen below:

Soon after the hooliganism demonstrated by lawyers triggered nationwide outrage, police had lodged an FIR against the protesting lawyers. Director General of Police SP Vaid had said on record that “The FIR has been lodged into the incident wherein some lawyers tried to obstruct the presenting of the chargesheet by the crime branch in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Kathua on Monday. Action under law will be taken against those found involved in the incident."

Meanwhile, Advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for the state in the Supreme Court, opposed the BCI's report and maintained that the police team was heckled allegedly by lawyers, when they went to file the charge sheet in the trial court. Alam told the bench that the report of BCI cannot be relied upon since no Crime Branch officers, who were allegedly obstructed by agitating lawyers at Kathua, were heard.

He pointed out to the report of the high court and drew the attention to a separate report of a District Judge at Kathua and claimed that the report gives scathing finding of the "obstruction" of officers and justice administration system. Alam pleaded that the two petitions related to the alleged misconduct of lawyers and prayer of the father of victim seeking transfer of the case to Chandigarh be kept separate to ensure that the matter is not sensationalised.

Supreme Court says "real concern" is to see fair trial conducted in Kathua case

Earlier, the Supreme Court on Thursday said its "real concern" was to see that a fair trial was conducted in the Kathua case. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that if it finds the slightest possibility of lack of fair trial, it will transfer the case out of Kathua.

The bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said the trial should be fair not only for the accused but also for the victim's family and the protection to them and their lawyers should be ensured.

The bench also considered the issue of alleged obstruction by lawyers in administration of justice in the case and said," if the lawyers are at fault, they would be dealt in accordance with law".

The matter will be next heard on July 30.

With PTI inputs.

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