Women win fight for lawyer's rights to practice in Chhattisgarh

Written by SabrangIndia | Published on: March 22, 2019

In a relief for lawyers from other states, The State Bar Council of Chhattisgarh annulled a 2015 resolution passed by the Bastar Bar Association barring them from practicing in Jagdalpur. The decision was made in an appeal by lawyers of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JAGLAG), Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal against the 2015 resolution.



Isha Khandelwal (left) with Shalini Gera; and (right)  Image Courtesy: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
 
Jagdalpur: In a relief for lawyers from other states, The State Bar Council of Chhattisgarh annulled a 2015 resolution passed by the Bastar Bar Association barring them from practicing in Jagdalpur.
 
The decision was made in an appeal by lawyers of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JAGLAG), Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal against 2015 resolution. The resolution passed by the Bar Association was part of the pressure exerted on JAGLAG that eventually forced their eviction.
 
Though Gera and Khandelwal subsequently registered themselves with the Chhattisgarh State Bar Council after appealing against the resolution, they pushed for quashing of the same, for the benefit of their colleagues and other lawyers.
 
Two and a half years after JAGLAG first began providing legal aid in the Bastar region, the Bastar Bar Association held a general body meeting. At that meeting, a resolution was passed that prohibited non-local lawyers from appearing in cases without the prior approval of the association, Bar & Bench reported.
 
The Association passed a second resolution, an act of open hostility, saying that it would not be responsible if something untoward happened to the lawyers.
 
JAGLAG was eventually forced to exit Jagdalpur and relocate to Bilaspur, from where they continued to serve their clients.
 
In a previous interview with Bar & Bench, Shalini Gera spoke on the harassment JAGLAG and other lawyers faced from the local bar association and the police. “For the first four years, they didn’t have any issues with us; we even co-hosted a seminar on legal aid and justice with them. Just as police harassment increased, even they started harassing us. They were probably being pushed by the police. So, the police used many strategies – direct threats, pushing the Bar against us and the Samajik Ekta Manch. These were not independent incidents,” she said.
 
Shalini Gera, 46, and Isha Khandelwal, 26, fresh law graduates from Delhi (Gera, a PhD in neuroscience, came to law late) started the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JAGLAG) in 2013 in a sparsely furnished two-room house. They first took up the task of documentation and filing RTIs.
 
They began to assist local lawyers to bring their cases to a conclusion. JAGLAG became a mobile hub for public-spirited legal interns from all over the country wanting to understand the law’s working in mofussil towns.
 
Representing tribal activist Soni Sori’s case in the Essar case gave them credibility.