06/08/2018 11:57 AM IST | Updated 06/08/2018 11:57 AM IST

Former BJP Leader, Who Joined BSP This Year, To Represent Kathua Rape Accused For Free

The lawyer will appear for the accused at the Pathankot court.

Amit Dave / Reuters
Supporters of India's main opposition Congress party participate in a candle light vigil as they protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua near Jammu, and a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh state, in Ahmedabad, India April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Master Mohan Lal, a former Punjab minister who quit BJP last year and joined Mayawati's BSP this year, is going represent Kathua rape accused Sanjhi Ram and his son Vishal. The ex-transport minister of Punjab told The Times of India that he will not be charging the accused any fee to appear for them in the court.

Lal, however, added that he has never charged fees of any of his clients so this case shouldn't be viewed as any different from the rest. "The accused had approached me. They are like any other client and I will fight to prove their innocence," the 71-year-old lawyer told The Times of India.

Lal, who is a resident of Pathankot where the Kathua rape case is being heard, had joined BJP in 2016 and then quit in 2017. While some local news websites attributed Lal quitting BJP to his differences with the party where younger members were given preference over him, Lal told the media that he had quit the party for its 'anti-poor' and 'anti-Dalit' actions.

Lal announced his decision to join BSP on April 6 this year saying, "The party is also becoming a major hope for the people stop the anti-Dalit and anti-minority agenda pursued by the BJP."

However, a website called YesPunjab quotes Lal as saying, "I have been continuously ignored for the past six years. I have given blood for the party and now the leaders are asking 'who is Master Mohan Lal'?."

Aseem Sawney, who had been representing the Kathua rape accused, was appointed as additional Advocate General of Jammu and Kashmir in July this year. Sawney told NDTV that he was not representing the Kathua rape accused anymore.

"Rewarding those who defend alleged murderers and rapists is abhorrent and a shocking violation of the spirit of justice. Such a move will only serve to encourage the rape culture rampant in our society. Expect the @jandkgovernor to intervene," PDP's Mehbooba Mufti had tweeted in July, taking a dig at BJP. The party had ended its alliance with PDP in June and the Kathua rape cases was rumoured to be one of the primary reasons behind the split.

A eight-year-old girl was abducted on 10 January this year and was allegedly held hostage in a temple, drugged, gangraped by eight men, including police officers. She was later strangled and her body dumped in the forests nearby. The Muslim girl belonged to the Bakarval tribe in Jammu and it was alleged that the rape and murder was orchestrated to scare the tribe away from the land.