The Delhi High Court Women Lawyers Forum (DHCWLF) has criticised the resolution of the Coordination Committee of All District Court Bar Associations of Delhi to abstain from work to protest against the conviction of Lawyer Rajiv Khosla in a sexual harassment case of 1994.
DHCWLF has written a letter to the Delhi High Court Bar Association president stating that such conduct of the committee after the verdict shows the appalling conditions in which women lawyers work.
In the letter, the forum stated that it would seem unlikely that any woman lawyer who has faced harassment or assault will ever want to report the ordeal since the Bar always openly sides with accused men.
“The silence of other Bar Associations is significant and leads to the irresistible and sad conclusion that the bar does not treat gender issues, hooliganism, intimidation, and contempt of courts as worthy principles to stand up for and call out, unless it is to suppress the voices of marginalized lawyers. It also indicates their approval and support for bullying of women lawyers and attempts to overreach the rule of law and independence of the Judiciary,” said the letter.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Tis Hazari Court Gajender Singh Nagar held Rajiv Khosla guilty of Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Complainant Sujata Kohli, who was a practicing lawyer in 1994, became a judge in Delhi and retired as a District and Session judge in 2020.
Kohli had accused Khosla of pulling her hair inside court premises, twisting her arms, dragging her, while also hurling abuses and threats at her. Khosla was the Secretary of the Delhi Bar Association at that time and had invited Kohli to join a seminar. She was allegedly threatened that all the facilities from Bar Association would be withdrawn and will also be dispossessed of her seat as well.
In the resolution, the committee has stated that the verdict was biased and against all the cardinal principles of criminal jurisprudence. Therefore, it is boycotting the court of the concerned judge indefinitely.
The letter also mentioned,
” a) The misogyny of the bar (the bench differs in degrees and shades of subtle and not so much). Many if not most women lawyers have suffered in varying degrees the oppressive patriarchy and sexual harassment within the legal profession. Sujata Kohli had the courage to initiate legal process and fight her cause over 27 years. We applaud her.
b) The conduct of the Bar Association subsequent to the judgment in fact makes good the case itself which is about harassment, bullying and intimidation. This should be an embarrassment to every lawyer.”
The forum stated that the Bar has a right to condemn and protest dishonest, mala fide and obnoxious judgments, the Bar leaders cannot have immunity from rule of law.
The letter added, “Indeed the rot in the system began before this case but if not dealt with now, will exponentially denigrate and deteriorate what was supposed to be a noble profession working to build an elegant dignified institution with exemplary standards and safe work environment.”
“This is nothing but an act of intimidation/contempt against the trial court,” the forum said in the letter.