Supreme Court tells Delhi gang rape lawyers to explain documentary remarks

By Suchitra Mohanty NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday called on two lawyers to explain comments made in a controversial BBC documentary on the gang rape and murder of a woman on a Delhi bus, after female advocates said the remarks were "inhumane" and "unjustifiable". The documentary "India's Daughter" was banned by the government earlier this month, when the home minister said remarks by Mukesh Singh - one of four men convicted for the December 2012 crime - in which he blamed the victim, were derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women. The remarks, widely broadcast before the ban was imposed, also prompted the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association to seek action against the convicted men's defence lawyers, Ajai Pratap Singh and Manohar Lal Sharma, who were also interviewed in the documentary. "We have heard the argument, pleadings and grievances urged in the petition. The matter requires consideration in view of the factual and legal submissions," said the two-judge bench, ordering the lawyers to respond within a fortnight. In the petition, female lawyers urged the Supreme Court to ban the two men from the court premises and demanded they apologise for the "inhumane, scandalous, unjustifiable, biased, outrageous and ill-minded" remarks. The women lawyers said they wanted the right to work with dignity and without gender bias. "We need an environment where we are fearless," they said. Excerpts from the documentary's interviews with Mukesh Singh and the two lawyers were widely broadcast in India, grabbing newspaper headlines and sparking anger on social media. "We have the best culture. In our (Indian) culture, there is no place for a woman," said Sharma in one excerpt. In another extract, he said "The girl or woman is more precious than a gem, than a diamond. It is up to you how you want to keep that diamond, if you put the diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it. You can't stop him." Singh's remark was "If very important, she (a woman/girl) should go outside, but she should go with her family members. She should not go in night hours with her boyfriend." Sharma, contacted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, refused to comment, but Singh said he was not against women. "I have not received any Supreme Court notice yet. As soon as I get it, I will reply to the court. I am fighting against western culture. My fight is not against any girl or woman or lady," he said. (Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty, Writing by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Tim Pearce)