New Delhi: The lawyer who took up the case of the 8-year-old girl, who was gangraped and killed in Kathua in Jammu, has said that she has been battling 'prejudice', 'bias' and 'threats' from her fellow colleagues for the last five years.
Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat, who is appearing for the father of the victim, told News18 that she has been denied water from any of the bar rooms of the Jammu court.
According to the chargesheet, the girl belonged to the nomadic Bakerwal tribe and sixty-year-old Sanji Ram allegedly hatched a conspiracy to drive the nomads away from the area and the rape and murder of the child was part of the plan.
Rajawat had taken the case initially after she read about it in newspapers and soon decided to approach the family to help them seek justice.
"I wanted to meet her parents," she said. The victim was staying with her maternal uncle when the incident took place. "It was her biological father who wanted a court-monitored probe to fast track the case," said Rajawat who had first moved a writ petition.
"We did not demand all the accused to be hanged or initiate an anti-Hindu movement. We only wanted the court to monitor the investigation. The HC started calling periodical reports from the crime branch and it is only after we went to the court that the investigation started showing results. It was minutely examining the reports filed by the crime branch. On the basis of that, fresh status reports were sought to be filed," said Rajawat.
However, Rajawat said that the threats from the Jammu Bar Association president BS Salathia is not a first threat from the lawyer's body.
The lawyer pointed out that in 2012, a 12-year-old girl died in the residence of advocate Surinder Singh in Jammu under mysterious circumstances. "Singh was earlier the bar president and also the president of the Gurdwara Prabandak Committee also. It was stated by Singh and others that the girl committed suicide after tying her neck with the shower pipe," said Rajawat.
Rajawat said that the parents of the girl approached her after a senior criminal lawyer, who handled the case, destroyed the entire scene of evidence.
"Since I was working for an NGO, I had to take up the case," said Rajawat. But, as soon as she took up the case, Rajawat's bar membership was cancelled. "They (The bar association) gave a statement to the press stating that I was an 'undisciplined lawyer'," said Rajawat.
Rajawat also said that she is being threatened to leave the case and not "spread filth in the court".
"On April 4, when I was there in high court, Salathia asked me not to appear in this matter. When I told the bar president that I was not a member of the bar association and hence I can appear for the cases I want, he replied, "Yaha par gandd phailane ki zarurat nahi hai (no need to spread filth here)" When she protested, she was further threatened, "I have the means to stop you."
The lawyer's plight doesn't end here. She has been denied water too.
"Just recently when I went to one of the bar rooms to have some water, a staff told me that water cannot be served to me since there were directions from senior officers. Is this the property of the bar president?", asked Rajawat.
Lawyers in Jammu brought the city to a standstill on Wednesday to protest the filing of the chargesheet and arrest of the eight accused in the rape and murder case.
Upping the ante, the lawyers of the Jammu Bar Association also demanded the ouster of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis along with the nomadic tribes.
However, Rajawat claims that this is only a strategy to come into the limelight as they had easy legal options to demand a CBI probe earlier than protesting.
"They can get the entire challan quashed in court under CrPC. But no one would ever come to know that they did it and hence the strike and a show of all the mess. All the people protesting are lawyers and they know their way out," she said.
Rajawat has a lot of questions — "When our writ petition was filed, why did the Jammu bar president not file another application asking for a CBI probe? Now when the entire matter has been heard and status reports have been filed, they demand a CBI probe? Why did not they approach the court before us."
The lawyer has also raised questions on the matter based on which the bar association calls for strikes.
"In 2007, lawyer Anil Sethi was involved in a sex scandal. This same bar association stood in defence of Advocate Sethi and suspended work for almost a month. This is usually their grounds for strike. Even now, I was threatened in front of another senior lawyer. This is simply disrespecting the woman," Rajawat said.
Rajawat now believes that this case cannot be taken up in Jammu any longer and that she would soon discuss with the victim's father about transferring the case to another court.