Express News Service
NEW DELHI: “Twenty-seven years of my struggle was reduced to a joke in 10 minutes…,” said a visibly distraught Sujata Kohli. She was reacting to a verdict in which a Delhi court imposed a fine of Rs 40,000 on former Bar Association President Rajiv Khosla after finding him guilty of assaulting Kohli in 1994.
The retired CBI judge said that the monetary fine meant nothing to her and that the judgment was akin to reopening old wounds. “In the last two months, I was made to relive that humiliating experience from all those years ago all over again. And what does it culminate in? The verdict doesn’t just belittle my struggle but mocks the very idea of justice,” she said.
In contrast to Kohli’s rather composed demeanour despite the setback, the verdict triggered a chest-thumping by the lawyers who filled the courtroom with slogans such as “Vakeel Ekta Zindabad” and “Rajiv Khosla Zindabad”.
As she recollects her trauma, one cannot help but think why a judge struggled for justice for herself and why did the judiciary take this long to award what she describes as “an extremely lenient” sentence.
“Whatever happened, even I didn’t anticipate. Had I anticipated all this, maybe the course of this case would have been different,” recollected the former judge.
The assault was a result of Kohli rebelling against Khosla by not participating in a strike called by him. Khosla, who was the secretary of the Delhi Bar Association back then, called the strike against the formation of family courts.
“Soon, I heard rumours that I would have to pay a heavy price for my refusal. The way out was apologising to him but I refused,” she added. Days later, she found that Khosla along with a group of 40-50 men in black coats came up to her and asked her to get up from her seat. “They pulled me by the arm, pulled my hair, and then dragged me along in the Tis Hazari court premises. I faced the worst kind of humiliation,” recalled the former judge with moist eyes.
“I didn’t know how to reach home that day and was hiding behind the lockup. Then a friend of mine came and dropped me home,” she described. And just like today, she found herself all alone, as even those who she considered friends didn’t come to help her. The FIR was registered a year later following a High Court intervention.
The court proceedings weren’t easy either. “During the hearings of my case, Khosla’s supporting lawyers used to shout and abuse and not let the court function smoothly. I was literally prevented from attending his bail hearing. They would not let me speak and stand and would make noises just the way they are making today,” says Kohli, pointing to the triumphant slogans.
Kohli experienced a strong sense of male chauvinism and misogyny in the judiciary even after becoming a judge herself in 2002. “Once, I asked an SHO to verify a fact in a case and the counsel in the case abused me in my court and said that I am mentally unsound. When I said that it is contempt of court, he cited my own case and saying that I couldn’t do anything against Rajeev Khosla and dared me to do whatever I could against him.”