‘It’s a Conspiracy’: Kathua Lawyer After Being Dropped By Family
The family of the eight-year-old Kathua rape victim, on Wednesday, 14 November, decided to drop lawyer Deepika Rajawat, who had spearheaded their cause initially.
In an interview to The Quint from Jammu, Rajawat said:
On Wednesday, the victim’s father, Yusuf, filed an application in the Pathankot trial court that read: “Keeping in view her apprehension and non-appearance in this case… I hereby withdraw my power of attorney issued to Deepika Singh Rajawat and now she is not my advocate.”
The Kathua rape case jolted the conscience of the people after the charge sheet filed by the J&K police revealed that the girl was sedated, raped repeatedly, and then bludgeoned to death in January this year.
Here’s what Rajawat had to say about why she was not regular to the court hearings and how the case has affected her own practice:
Why do you think this is a conspiracy against you?
People think I have gained a lot through this. Otherwise, ask Yusuf, who is the girl’s father and the complainant, how many times they’ve appeared for the case? Never. Then what led him to remove me all of a sudden? Maybe people wanted to disassociate me from the case as the conviction is hundred percent. At the end, people don’t want me to be credited, as I am being awarded for this everywhere.
What do you have to say about the family’s decision to drop you?
I feel bad but I do not blame them. The family has been misguided. They’ve been told by the lawyers to do it, so they’ve acted. It is unfortunate but it is not the norm.
Why is this not the norm?
If a client comes to me and says, “Ma’am, I am not satisfied with the work that my lawyer is doing for me,” then I, at the maximum, will supersede the existing lawyer and become a fresh attorney on the case. This application, which has been filed is not the culture. It is not the practice. It is a well-thought conspiracy to disassociate me from the case. The family is innocent and they are illiterate people. They’ve been misguided.
Have you spoken to advocate Mubeen Farooky, who submitted the application in court on behalf of Yusuf?
Yes, I tried to call him but he is not picking up my phone. Mubeen Farooky is not appearing everyday either. Farooky is from Punjab and he is not participating in trial. I think he has appeared three to four times himself in Pathankot.
Why did you not appear for the trial in court?
Pathankot is 150-200 km away from my home in Jammu, and if I go there everyday. I will go there in the morning and come back by night. Which means my work, my own practice in Jammu suffers. I am not able to appear in the cases from clients I am charging a fee from. I need to remind you the Kathua rape case is a pro bono case. I did not take money from them. Except once or twice when they’ve booked my flight tickets, all the expenditure on the case has come from my pocket. Since February, I have been disturbed, traveling to the Supreme Court and with everything that followed, I could not focus on my practice in Jammu. One or two times when I did appear in Pathankot, I saw that the case is being handled well. Public prosecutors are appearing, they are taking care of the case. So I had a belief that the case was in safe hands, and I was not required there... not much.
Were you concerned about your safety?
No, not at all. I am not someone who gets scared easily. It was only the compulsion of discharging duties at Jammu. The travel is so much, you go in the morning and come back at night. Your work in Jammu halts. It sends a bad message. A lawyer does not engage in publicity. It is just word-of-mouth that works. If I have represented you properly, you will refer me to another person. If I do not appear in your case, I will damage my work.
How was your work in Jammu getting affected?
Financially also and case wise also. So, if you don’t go to court, we work as daily wage workers, we also have a lot of miscellaneous work in court – when you are not doing all those things who will pay you? This is the only source of income I have.
Professionally, how important was it for you to represent the Kathua victim’s family?
Representing the Kathua victim initially was very important, professionally also. Had the case been at Jammu, the troubles and problems of my work suffering might have not happened. I would have loved to be there everyday. It was a learning opportunity for me too. The only compulsion is that my work in Jammu was suffering and the case was in safe hands in Pathankot. In Pathankot, there are three lawyers who are looking into this, in Jammu there is no one to take care of my work.
Right from when you began representing the case, you’ve had a rocky relationship with the Jammu Bar Association. How are things now?
It is still very bad. Someone called me up in the morning and I started crying, I said I am the victim to be very frank. I was the victim when I fought for them, I am the victim when I am not able to appear for them. I was being abused that time and I am still being abused. What damage have I done to be abused? You’re trolling us. You’re character assassinating us. How do you have this courage? (sic)
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