In My Defence

October, and the room was stifling. The Judge was looking for his spectacles in the already dimly lit room. He glanced at the huge pile of folders and sighed. On the bright side, only one more matter was left.

Dinesh Kumar was brought in. He had an impulse to get out of the room as soon as he entered. But his life depended on the events that would take place in this room. The proceedings began but his mind was elsewhere, on the person who had dragged him into the courtroom.

She was late and she knew it. Today was the big day. Today would be the day that would trigger a series of events that will culminate into the biggest feminist movement India has ever seen, and she would be the one to spearhead it. Oh, now she was late and she couldn’t even check if she was looking presentable. As she entered the room she recoiled from the smell. She made her way to the front and at the sight of Dinesh Kumar, her blood boiled. Her lawyer was saying something but she was only half-listening. That misogynist, even though she was practically over qualified for the job yet he gave it to an inexperienced man. Later, in his office he had the audacity to give that explanation shamelessly.

"He explicitly told my client, 'You are not getting the job because you are a woman,'” Her lawyer told the Judge. This piqued the Judge’s interest, you could tell by the way his eyebrows raised. So, this wasn’t a banal sexual harassment case. He made a mental note of reading the case files from time to time.

Dinesh ignored the lawyer’s statement. He was trying his best not to look at Hargun. He peeked at her through the corner of his eyes and the incident replayed in his mind. He was hiring an intern, a paid one mind you, and she was one of the candidates. She more than deserved the job but other factors needed to be considered. The day after, he asked her to stop by his office, wishing to explain the circumstances to her. He had felt he owed her that much. He didn’t regret his decision, not even now.

The Judge observed the man, wondering why the accused hadn’t yet leapt to his defence. But, then again, a second look would tell one that he had an air of superiority around him. “Mr. Kumar, would you like to say something in your defence?”

“Yes, your honour.” He walked to the witness box. His lawyer gave him a panicky look. Earlier, he had told him to deny all of the allegations, mostly the one where he had told her the reason for not getting the job. Dinesh knew he couldn’t—wouldn’t do that.

“I would first like to reiterate what my lawyer has said: Mr. Gheglot has conveniently left out some parts. Yes, I did call Hargun in my office and told her that she wasn’t getting the job, a major factor being that she is a woman.” At this some people gasped, most conspicuously his lawyer. “But... but I explained to her what I meant, as I will do again now. This entire case is based on gender discrimination. And that is a complete conjecture. The purpose of my hiring an intern was that the person would act as an assistant lawyer. This would require them to work late hours. Hargun, she is… is truly brilliant. Now, what if something happens to her when she is returning home late at night? Heads are going to turn in my direction—why did her boss need to leave her so late at night? He should have been more thoughtful; ‘ladki hain'. Why should I be the one who has to take responsibility? To pay for the sins committed by a scoundrel on the street? I know it is unfair for women, and I am truly sorry but my hands are tied. When the atrocities against women become minimal and the world is a better place, I will have no such reservations.”

This was a peculiar case. He adjourned the hearing till the next day. “The court charges Mr. Dinesh Kumar with misdemeanour. It concludes that Mr. Kumar’s action was a result of some sort of self- preservation. While the court understands Mr. Kumar had no malicious intent, he is to some extent, accountable of gender discrimination. He will pay money equivalent to one month’s salary of the intern he was to hire to Ms. Hargun Singh as compensation for his actions. Ms. Hargun, if she so wishes, will also be employed as an intern at Mr. Kumar’s company.”

The Judge banged his gavel. The next person was brought into the room.