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A nun-lawyer’s habit starts court dress code debate in Delhi

The lawyers who objected to her attire too said they would file a complaint with the bar council.

Can’t a habit-wearing nun appear in court as a lawyer? That’s what Sister Jasmine wants to know.

On Thursday, when she appeared in a domestic violence case in a mahila court in the Karkardooma complex here, lawyers present in the court room objected to her attire saying it was a “violation of the court’s dress code”.

“I was wearing a black coat and a white band over my habit but they objected, saying I had violated the dress code. They said, ‘all sanyasis do LL.B and come here (courts). They then started protesting,” Sister Jasmine, who has been practicing in Delhi since 2000, told The Indian Express.

She said neither the Constitution of India nor her “own constitution” (the congregation) barred her from working as a lawyer. Her bar council registration and identity card show her dressed in a habit.

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“If wearing a habit is in violation of the court’s dress code, how did they let me wear it for my identity card picture? You allow Sikhs to come to court wearing turbans. So, how is my habit a problem?” she asked.

Sister Jasmine, who works with the Human Rights Law Network, said she plans to file a complaint after discussing the matter with
HRLN members.

The lawyers who objected to her attire too said they would file a complaint with the bar council.

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When his views were sought,  Bar Council of India chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said: “There is a prescribed dress code for courts. No deviation can be allowed regarding that… The turban is not a problem. It can be allowed but not a habit.”

But retired judge S N Dhingra countered that wearing a habit is not a violation of the dress code, provided a nun wears a black coat and a white band.

“These two components form the uniform of lawyers and have become a ritual as they help the judge in distinguishing the counsel from litigants. Just as turbans and other religious markers are allowed in court, a habit is also not a violation,” Dhingra said.

First published on: 18-04-2014 at 02:37 IST
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