Black coats, white bands, saying ‘ my lord’, preaching law, making people believe that if no one listens to your problems, the court will, that is an advocate for us.
Law sees no caste, creed or gender and treats everyone equally. But is it really being preached in the courts of law?
After the murder of Uttar Pradesh Bar Council president Darvesh Singh Yadav, who was shot dead in the Agra court premises. The plea, filed by advocate Indu Kaul, was listed before a vacation bench of justices Deepkak Gupta and Surya Kant who agreed to hear saying that it was a “serious matter”.
she was the first woman president of the Bar Council, was shot thrice by another lawyer Manish Sharma, who had been her long-time acquaintance.
Have the institutions where law and order is practiced also become unsafe for women?
Being a law student I can say that with my experience that most of the male advocates follow the policy of ‘no junior female advocates’. the reason they argue is that they don’t want to take the extra burden of the protection and security of the females. The wont be able to focus on the client but their primary focus would be to ensure the safety of their junior.
There is a huge difference in the number of female and male advocates in the courts of India. The statistics being as follows,
|Bar council||Women||Total||Data up to|
|Maharashtra State Bar Council||32,378||113,750||2016|
|Tamil Nadu State Bar Council||7,253||74,767||2012|
|Uttar Pradesh Bar Council||16,954||262,780||2016|
|Madhya Pradesh Bar Council||3,405||71,295||2016|
Various cases and statements can be cited to prove the point, the safety of female advocates is becoming a matter of concern. The matter should be looked into, to ensure that upcoming female advocates not only feel safe but are also appreciated.
In 2014 Advocate Ambika Das (since deceased) was assaulted by the police and the police refused to register an FIR of the incident in which she was assaulted by police and henchmen of an influential person on 04.04.2014 at Lajpat Nagar Police station when she had gone to serve a stay order in relation to some property dispute.
The Hon’ble Court was gracious enough to take suo moto cognizance of the inaction of Delhi police after the same was widely reported in the newspapers. Ambika Das got no police protection and the case was vehemently opposed by the opposing government departments. The case came to an end on the untimely demise of Advocate Ambika Das in March 2017.
In the year 2013 an incident of voyeurism was reported from Delhi High Court were women Advocates were filmed on mobile phone in the Ladies rest room. This incident was reported in the newspaper which provided an impetus for filing a PIL under Article 32 of Constitution of India before this Hon’ble Court namely Binu Tamta & Anr vs High Court of Delhi.
“The incident raises serious concerns. If this can happen to a lawyer, and that too inside court premises, women are not safe anywhere,” said lawyer Meera Bhatia, who is also a member of the advocate’s committee to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.
In a similar incident, a woman lawyer was sexually assaulted by a male senior lawyer in Saket Court, New Delhi. As reported, a case was registered under section 376 and 354 IPC. The case is pending adjudication in Saket Court, New Delhi.
The social security of female advocates has thus become an important concern. Along the same lines, a PIL has been filed at the apex court by Ms. Indu Kaul which shows a bitter truth of the court environs in regards to female advocates.
Women who excel despite the barriers are talked about as having curried favours, says Naina Saraf, a lawyer practicing in Jaipur. “If I have a pretty face and get a favourable order, rumours start flying,” she adds.
Rajeshwari S., an advocate from Bangalore backs this up. “I have been told, in apparent jest, to ‘just flash the judge a smile’ to get a favourable order.” Both these women have been asked intruding personal questions and unwelcome advances have been passed at them. “I maintain a policy of one-arm distance from everyone in courts. But not all women can deal with this and they simply move out of litigation,” says Rajeshwari.
Advocates say that calling out instances of sexism, casual and otherwise, then and there will create awareness and sensitize people. One must begin by acknowledging that the problem exists, she says. But Maitreyi Krishnan, an advocate in Bangalore, says that the legal profession is very defensive to confrontation and thus, this calling out becomes difficult.
“There are strict hierarchies in the profession. Talking back to your senior and arguing with a judge are considered transgressions and they can have repercussions on your practice. So, you cannot judge a woman for not calling out,” she says
The advocates of this generation are more comfortable talking to each other. Most of the coming generation of male advocates don’t judge them on the bases of their clothes and presume them to be easy.
At last I would like conclude by saying that unlearning years of conditioning is not easy, but a structural requirement can speed the process. “But let us also not fool ourselves. Knowing what is right and acting right are two different things, as Dr. Ambedkar famously said, and no amount of sensitisation would work with those who are not convinced of the equality of all persons, or that all persons deserve equal respect.”