Even as the Bar Council of India initiated suo motu proceedings for professional misconduct against two defence lawyers in the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape case for their alleged derogatory remarks against women made in the BBC documentary India’s Daughter , senior members of the legal community said lawyers, above all, should be sensitive to the equality and dignity of women.
They said the proceedings gave the BCI, the highest regulatory body for legal practice, an opportunity to amend rules to check lawyers from making unsubstantiated, off-the-cuff remarks, especially when they represent sensitive cases involving crimes against women.
The two lawyers — Manohar Lal Sharma and A.P. Singh — represent the four persons on death row for the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi in December 2012.
Supreme Court Bar Association president Dushyant Dave said on Saturday that the two lawyers represented the exception to the lawyers’ community and their comments reflected a “myopic thinking.”
“What they said is absolutely unacceptable. Those who have learned the art of law know that the equality of women is at the forefront,” Mr. Dave said. He commended the BCI for taking “decisive action”.
BCI chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra said the executive committee met urgently late on Friday and decided to issue show-cause notices by midnight.
Mr. Mishra said the two lawyers had three weeks’ time to respond to the BCI notice. If found liable for professional misconduct, the BCI could even revoke the lawyers’ licences.
Mr. Sharma was seen on camera saying that “the ‘lady’, on the other hand, you can say the ‘girl’ or ‘woman’, are more precious than a gem, than a diamond. It is up to you how you want to keep that diamond in your hand. If you put your diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it out. You can’t stop it.”
Mr. Singh was shown saying: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
Former Additional Solicitor-General Amarjit Singh Chandhiok said it was time to introspect and consider amending the Advocates Act, 1961, to make lawyers more responsible for the comments they made as professionals.
“Where are we leading ourselves? I may be defending a litigant. I can say in court that he is innocent until proven guilty. But I cannot lose the dignity of my profession...” Mr. Chandhiok, former president of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, said.
He said the dignity of women was upheld under Article 21 of the Constitution, and lawyers should know about this fundamental right.
BJP Lok Sabha member and lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi said the comments were “unbecoming” because a certain “ethical and moral balance” was expected from legal practitioners in a society fighting hard against various biases.