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BCI chief MK Mishra tad confused if controversial Kathua lawyer protests were good or bad idea

BCI incumbent chief MK Mishra on Kathua rape
BCI incumbent chief MK Mishra on Kathua rape

When Jammu lawyers on strike to impede the filing of a charge sheet in the rape and murder case of a minor girl in Jammu, Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Manan Kumar Mishra appeared not sure what to make of it.

The striking lawyers had physically blocked police officers from filing before the judicial magistrate the state crime branch’ charge sheet in the case.

The lawyers said that they wanted an independent inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the incident. The accused in the incident included police officers.

The Supreme Court yesterday reprimanded the lawyers, noting: “Preventing lawyers from defending a victim affects the dispensation of justice. No lawyer can prevent access to justice.”

But incumbent Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Manan Kumar Mishra was less sure, when speaking to NDTV two days ago (in the video from around the 12:29 minute mark):

This crime is indeed very serious. Gruesome murder, appears to be a case of rape also. So the crime is serious there is no doubt about that.

No matter how much it is condemned it is not enough.

But on the other hand lawyers are on strike, entire Jammu is on strike, so in these circumstances what is the reason behind this strike, why are people on the streets, why are they not satisfied with whatever investigation the police has done, this will also have to be looked into.

If the bar association and the public is demanding that this incident must face CBI inquiry, or an inquiry through some other independent investigation agency, I don’t think there is any mistake in such demand.

There is no difficulty in this [independent inquiry] happening.

Though we got to know about the strike only today, so we will also find out at our level.

(Translated from Hindi)

But the striking lawyers’ cause was not as simple as the demand for an independent and unbiased investigation.

Reportedly the lawyers were also seeking to prevent the filing of the crime branch’ charge sheet through their strike in the court premises, but in the same breath were also demanding deportation of Rohingya Muslim refugees from the state and a stay on a purported order of the chief minister to not evict nomads from the state without consulting the Tribal Affairs Department.

The lawyers, largely belonging to the Kathua Bar Association and the Jammu & Kahsmir High Court Bar Association, have been condemned widely on news media and social media as “hooligans”, seeing as their other grounds of strike were political and communal.

Support for the bandh called by them on Wednesday was low, reported the Express.

The victim was a eight year old girl belonging to the “Bakerwal” community, which is predominantly nomadic and Muslim. According to Newslaundry:

The Hindus accuse them of running cartels of land mafia and the BJP has been strongly opposing the formation of tribal affairs policy and amendment in forest protection laws. Barring some aberrations, the nomads are an oppressed and dispossessed lot; use of forest resources by them is often limited and follows a sustainable pattern as against the big land sharks, whom the BJP or any other party does not want to target.

Jammu Bar Association president BS Salathia allegedly openly threatened the victim’s family’s lawyer Deepika S Rajawat against appearing in court in the case, she told DNA India.

Salathia did not respond to our calls and messages for comment since the day before yesterday.

This is also not the first time that the BCI under Mishra has turned a blind eye to lawyers behaving badly.

The BCI has ended up doing nothing about violent lawyers outside Patiala House court, who had assaulted Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, journalists and lawyers because the lawyers disagreed with their political views.

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