On Friday, 13th April 2018 the Supreme Court of India took suo motu cognizance of a horrendous case of abduction, brutal rape and murder of an eight year old girl child in Rasana Village in District Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir in January 2018.
When the charges were filed in April some groups including lawyers staged protests against the arrests of the eight accused. Though the charge sheet was submitted the support for eight accused continues and this has led to widespread social outrage.
The three Judge Bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud held in the Order that no lawyer can be prevented from appearing on behalf of the victim’s family and such a prevention amounts to obstruction of justice.
The Supreme Court further held that “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. 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 has issued notice to Bar Council of India, State Bar Council of Jammu and Kashmir, High Court Bar Association at Jammu and the Kathua District Court Bar Association noting that “obstruction of delivery of justice and process of law, and that too by lawyers cannot be condoned”.
It also held in the Order 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 the duty of a lawyer to appear in support of his client, once he accepts the brief”.
The Order was concluded by the Bench with hope and trust that “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.”