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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

VK Ohri, go-to lawyer for activists and the working class, dies at 64

Ohri, known for winning both court battles and the hearts of those he defended, was 64. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
October 26, 2021 2:23:35 am
Advocate Prashant Bhushan was also defended in the trial courts in Delhi by Ohri.

From workers in Delhi’s industrial areas to AIIMS doctors to protesters facing criminal charges for agitating against Queen Elizabeth’s visit to India — a spectrum of groups were defended by veteran human rights lawyer V K Ohri, who passed away at AIIMS on Monday.

Ohri, known for winning both court battles and the hearts of those he defended, was 64. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

His doctor and long time friend, Anoop Saraya, told The Indian Express, “He was battling a long-term illness. I met him in 1986; at the time, I too was involved in agitations in Delhi. He helped us at the time when doctors were booked under criminal cases. From arguing with the local SHO to defending us in court, he did it all. He was the go-to man for any activist in Delhi.”

His colleagues remember him as a “mercurial criminal lawyer” who defended a spectrum of people — from French serial killer Charles Sobhraj to a Supreme Court staffer who had levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi when she faced a cheating case.

Senior advocate K K Manan, who also represented Sobhraj, said, “He was an asset to the bar. Such an intelligent lawyer. All the big cases he used to look after at the time. He was a brilliant and honest lawyer and a loving father. I have such a weight on my mind.”

Dr Aparna, President of the All India Federation of Trade Unions, recalled cases Ohri fought for working class people.

“Ohri also held the position of Vice President at IFTU in 1983. In the 80s, he fought cases for workers who faced serious criminal charges free of cost. There was also a case in which a 14-year-old girl was raped inside a police station. Ohri pursued that case and got the three policemen convicted in 1986. Queen Elizabeth came in 1997 to Delhi and was met with protests after she was slated to visit Jallianwala Bagh. Ohri defended the protesters and got them all discharged. He was a worker’s lawyer.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan was also defended in the trial courts in Delhi by Ohri.

“He has defended me in a criminal defamation case filed by Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s son. He also defended social activist Medha Patkar as well as activists from the Narmada Bachao Andolan. It is truly a loss for activists and lawyers,” said Bhushan.

Advocate S N Sharma struggled to come to terms with the loss. Ohri used to, in jest, call him a ‘Rajya Sabha member’ for holding a position in the

Bar Council of Delhi, and the two spoke not long before his death.

“He said, ‘Rajya Sabha member, when will you meet me? After I am gone?’ I did not know he was in such a serious condition. Many judges in the district courts were his juniors at one point of time. We all owe him our careers,” Sharma said.

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