Setting a precedent of sorts, lawyers' body in Odisha's Kendrapara has made up its mind to stay away from defending people facing trial in cases like rape, molestation and eve-teasing.
While the move has evoked appreciative gesture from various spheres, legitimacy of the decision has come under sharp debate with legal fraternity raising question.
It's pertinent to note here that no lawyer had turned up to defend the two youths, who were arrested on charges of eve-teasing, and produced before a court in Kendrapara district a couple of days back.
The two-youths, Rashmi Ranjan Muduli, 28, and Uttam Das, 29, were produced before the court of Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) Madhumita Mohanty.
Muduli and Das had allegedly passed lewd comments against some college girl students near.
The girls raised an alarm and local people nabbed the two youths and handed them over to police on December 24. The two youths were arrested by police on charge of eve-teasing.
As no lawyer turned up to defend the two-youths, the SDJM remanded them to 14-days judicial custody. "After we decided not to defend accused persons in such offence, this was the first case of eve-teasing offence and so no lawyer extended legal assistance to the offenders", said Kendrapara district Bar Association president, Dhruba Charan Jena.
"The mass movement against Delhi [ Images ] gangrape has aroused us. So we decided not to extend legal assistance to offenders involved in sexual molestation and eve-teasing", Jena said.
In fact, the lawyers' body has not imposed the decision on its members. It has not been made mandatory or obligatory to stop contesting such cases. It is a decision based on ethical consideration and moral conscience, he added.
The association is optimistic that the move would pay dividends though under the law of the land every accused has the right to legal defence, said Jena.
The move, on the other hand, has elicited reaction with experts questioning its propriety.
"The lawyers' body has infringed upon the professional right of legal practitioners. It's arbitrary and unilateral", said an ex-district and sessions judge Krushna Chandra Kar.
"Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty and a person facing trial ought to be guaranteed his defence. There are instances of false rape and molestation cases being foisted to settle personal score and vendetta. Thereby the spirit of law stands defeated by depriving legal aid to such persons", Manas Ranjan Mohapatra, executive president, All Odisha Bar Council said.