Let Institutions Function

In the wake of the brutal gangrape of a Delhi girl, who later died abroad, the Bar at Saket decided that they will not plead the case of the accused in the court of law. The decision became a talking point in the legal and judicial fraternity in Kashmir, especially because the Kashmir Bar Association had decided against pleading the case of accused in the sleaze racket that CBI partially investigated.

Bar’s decision became a major issue within and outside the state. They were appealed by the state law minister from the floor of the state legislative assembly to reconsider the decision. With emotions running high, the lawyers did not change the decision. One of their members who defied the decision was also boycotted. The case was finally shifted out of Kashmir, and the trial took place in Chandigarh. Last year, all the accused were absolved of the charges and exonerated, almost honourably!

The Kashmir Bar’s decision was not the first one. There were many such instances outside the state. Some of the individuals who could not find lawyers to plead their cases in the courtrooms were a few Kashmiris arrested in Delhi for various cases of sabotage. In western UP, as well, a number of Kashmiris could not get lawyers. As the trials continued, they were punished in absence of a satisfying pleader. Though in certain cases the higher courts reconsidered and reversed the punishments, but those were rare cases because the trial court verdicts are generally not undone later.

Last week, when a girl was brutally targeted by a vagabond with acid, destroying her face in uptown Srinagar, the Bar has taken the same decision – not to plead his case. The crime being brutal and abhorring and highly emotional, ideally the accused should not get a pleader in the court of law. But can decisions be taken merely on basis of the emotional quotient of a crime or an incident? Can a doctor have the liberty of denying treatment to a rapist who suffered a heart attack while committing the crime? Can a reporter enjoy not reporting a person’s death because he or she thinks it was good for the larger society and thus should be blacked out?

Taking such decisions in Kashmir has larger consequences. Firstly, the society is being dubbed as intolerant. This is being used later to make larger point in politics and development. Secondly, the accused, especially if they are from creamy layers, manage better support structure and eventually win over. Thirdly, it helps compromising the importance of the institutions. While people outside J&K might afford taking these decisions, Kashmir should avoid it for the larger good of the society.

The acid throwing assault on the girl is a water tight case against the accused. The victim has recorded her statement. There is enough medical evidence and the accomplice of the accused is now a prosecution witness. If the accused gets the best lawyer of the world to defend him, he will still go to the jail and be punished. Announcing that he will not be pleaded for has definitely encouraged the ravaged family but its contribution to the system of justice is still questionable.

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