From workers in Delhi’s industrial areas to AIIMS doctors and activists facing criminal charges for agitating against Queen Elizabeth’s visit to India — a variety of groups were defended by veteran human rights lawyer V K Ohri, who passed away at AIIMS on Monday in New Delhi.
V.K Ohri was known for winning both court battles and the love of those he defended. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
His doctor and long time friend, Anoop Saraya, mentioned in a report, “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.”
The 64-year-old’s colleagues remember him as a “mercurial criminal lawyer” who defended a lot 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 and other false charges.
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 recollected 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 S N Sharma found it hard 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. It remains an irreparable loss for each person working for human rights or for being exploited, violated or falsely charged in any case.