National Lawyers Forum (Sisters/Priests/Brothers)

The Beginnings ....

One of the objectives of Streevani is to work for justice through the legal profession, both directly and by creating a network of those involved in the ministry. It was realized when Streevani organized a two-days 'Workshop for Women Religious Lawyers' on the theme, "Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of Women Religious in India" in October 2008. The Women Religious Lawyers Forum took birth at the end of the Workshop.

The Forum met annually ever since with support and collaboration from Streevani and the Hyderabad based Montfort Social Institute, to deliberate on cutting edge issues in the legal profession and the prophetic response of women Religious Lawyers in the country.

In the eighth year of the journey of the Forum, in 2016, the women religious lawyers met along with Brothers, and Priests both Religious and Diocesan, to discuss the idea of forming an inclusive Lawyers Forum of both women and men. Finally, in February 2017, the National Lawyers Forum was formed with both women and men in the legal profession as members. Streevani and Montfort social Institute will continue to provide the institutional support and leadership to the National Lawyers Forum.

Our collaborators - Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad
Pursuit of Justice in India: A Prophetic Response

Responding to the invitation of Streevani and Montfort Social Institute, we 33 women and men religious as well as some diocesan priest lawyers came together at Jana Deepa Vidyapeet, Pune, from 13th to 15th January, 2017 to reflect on our Prophetic Response to the Pursuit of Justice.

Narrating how she came to practice law, Advocate Flavia Agnes pointed out that “Law be used to bring about social transformation”. She said that the scripture passage “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother/sister, you do it to me”, has motivated her to reach out to women who suffer violence. “Change the ethic of lawyering”, she suggested, so that lawyers can help clients to have faith in the legal system. She pointed out that “People live in cultural and religious spaces, especially women, so rights can be exercised within a complex rights based system only when we engage with all these spaces.” She advised us to create a culture of rights, as NGO lawyering is a space away from commercial lawyering.

Both Fr. M.T. Joseph and Fr. P.D. Mathew encouraged us to use the Constitution to enforce equality and rights. “The monolithic idea of India siding with the corporates, against the tribals, poor, etc. has generated a discourse that silences people in our so called democracy,” pointed our Fr. M.T. Joseph. “The narratives used are cleverly manipulated to substantiate the discourse on democracy and nationalism. The monopoly of one party supported by business, creates an environment of silence and fear by using intimidating tactics to promote the idea of “Nation”, "nationalism", and patriotism” he continued. "Getting political freedom without social equality political equality is useless". Political freedom remains a contradiction in India. It is important to bring back Ambedkar’s idea of social equality – where the rights of every Indian are respected and upheld,” he advised. “Fear and silencing is managed by professionals. To counter this we need to build a strong support system to become pressure groups using symbolic power. Power can be broken by resistance. Power thrives when spaces of resistance is reduced. Enlarge spaces of resistance. Support persons who are attacked because of their resistance. Create spaces of resistance within ourselves and in society”, he concluded.

Audrey D’Mello pointed out that “The ambience of the Courts is male and patriarchal. While from 1993 to 2013 we got laws against violence to women, yet the contradictions of women’s rights remains. Rights have to translate into action and not just remain on paper.”

Bro. Varghese Thecknath impressed upon us the importance of using international human rights instruments ratified by India in the pursuit of justice. He urged us to strengthen the alternative reporting on the status of human rights and abuses in India and connect with Speical Rapporteurs. To use advocacy for policy making and make theSustainable Development Goals a part of our campaign. “Use the media”, he advised.

Explaining the importance of using Public Interest Litigation, Fr. P.D. Mathew pointed out that PILs are rooted in the prophetic vision and Mission of Jesus, we need to conceive Jesus in our hearts and minds and deliver him to the masses. “We need to strengthen our work through building a network.  Get the people to write letters addressed to the Chief Justice of India which can be converted to a PIL,” he advised. He cautioned about using the right language in our quest for human rights. “Always say you are helping the government to implement rights of poor.” Bro. Varghese spoke mainly about the international law and Indian jurisprudence and the use of International law in expanding the scope of fundamental rights.

The sharing of stories from the field, by the participants, was strikingly similar. Many shared how they were drawn into law because they were touched by the dire need of the poor, the marginalized, violence to women, the dispossessed and the prisoner. It reinforced among us the need for building solidarity among lawyers who are sisters/brothers or priests. We felt that we had much to learn and share with each other for solidarity and support. While reviewing and evaluating the meeting, we strongly felt the need to form an inclusive Forum of Lawyers with the sisters, brothers and priests. We brainstormed on a provisional structure for creating such a Forum by voting in a team who will take the initiative to organize the next meeting in 2018. We are grateful to Streevani for offering to accompany us in our journey in the quest for prophetic justice.

The mission of Jesus proclaimed in Luke 4:18-19, reverberated through our reflections, prayer and sharing during the entire meeting. It reinforced our call to prophetic ministry in our country where the majority of people are crushed by deprivation of equality and rights.

We are thankful to Streevani and Montfort Social Institute for organizing this meeting. It was an energizing and rich experience through which we gained so much.

We commit ourselves to strengthen the new fledgling inclusive Forum of Lawyers, so that we stay encouraged and committed in this special vocation of lawyering that we feel called to.

Lawyer Nuns, Priests Pledge To Work For Poor

Published on: 8:05 am, January 19, 2017 by:

By Virginia Saldanha

Pune: Responding to the invitation of Streevani and Montfort Social Institute, 33 lawyers who are women and men Religious as well as diocesan priests came together at Jana Deepa Vidyapeet, Pune, from 13 to 15 January, to reflect on a 'Prophetic Response to the Pursuit of Justice.'

"Adopt a rights based approach as NGO lawyering is a space away from commercial lawyering. The law can be used to bring about social transformation," said advocate Flavia Agnes, a resource person.

The resource persons encouraged the participants to make faith based responses to the most vulnerable in India.

Pune-based civil society "Streevani," (the voice of women) and Hyderabad-based Montfort Social Institute organized the event.

Both Fr. M.T. Joseph and Jesuit Fr. P.D. Mathew encouraged the lawyers to use the Constitution to enforce equality and rights.

"The monolithic idea of India siding with the corporates, against the tribals and poor have generated a discourse that silences people in our so called democracy," said Fr. M.T. Joseph.

"The narratives used are cleverly manipulated to substantiate the discourse on democracy and nationalism. The monopoly of one party supported by business, creates an environment of silence and fear by using intimidating tactics to promote the idea of "Nation", "nationalism", and "patriotism" he added.

"Fear and silencing is managed by professionals. To counter this we need to build a strong support system to become pressure groups using symbolic power. Power can be broken by resistance. Power thrives when spaces of resistance is reduced. Enlarge spaces of resistance. Support persons who are attacked because of their resistance. Create spaces of resistance within ourselves and in society," the priest said.

The sharing of stories from the field, by the participants, reinforced the need for building solidarity among lawyers who are nun, brothers and priests. The group felt that they had much to learn and share with each other for solidarity and support.

"We need to conceive Jesus in our hearts and minds and deliver him to the masses," said Fr. PD Mathew and he encouraged the participants to network with one another, for support and sharing of resources.

In the final session, while reviewing and evaluating the meeting, the participants expressed the need to form an inclusive Forum of Lawyers with men. So far there has been a Forum of Religious Women Lawyers who have had regular meetings over the nine years of their existence.

For the full article please visit Matters India Page by clicking here.

In pursuit of justice: A prophetic response in India

53 members of the Religious Lawyers Forum, a platform of religious Sisters, along with Brothers and Priests gathered at Vidhya Deep College, Bangaluru, from 12-14, February 2016, for their Annual Assembly to deliberate on the them, Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response in India. Jointly organized by Streevani (Pune), Montfort Social Institute (Hyderabad) and Indian Social Institute (Delhi), the Conference was inaugurated by Ms. Dona Fernandez, a well-known social activist and founder of Vimochana. Inaugural message was given by Dr. Jacob Arackal, Provincial Superior of the Claretians and a lawyer himself. Among the resource persons at the Conference were Bro. Varghese Theckanath S.G., Director, Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad; Prof. V.S. Elizabeth and Prof. Babu Mathew of National Law School University, Bangaluru; and Sr. Julie George, Director, Streevani.

During the three days of study, reflection and deliberations aided by resource persons and legal activists who are at the forefront of the protection of democratic values evolved from the freedom struggle and the Constitution of the country, we examined the factors that sustain us in our mission as lawyers; the obstacles and challenges that come on our way in fulfilling our task; and our way forward as prophetic people engaged in the ministry of ushering in justice for our people.

The sharing and dialogue among ourselves helped us recognize the factors that sustain us in our ministry. Our personal encounters with the Divine in prayer help us to give ourselves generously to the poor and the dispossessed that knock at the doors of the courts of law for remedy. A deeply ingrained personal quest for justice, the fraternal support we receive from our fellow religious and communities, and the example of our peers and elders in the profession, who relentlessly seek justice on behalf of the poor, contribute immensely to our spiritual vitality that is crucial in our ministry.

There is no denying the fact that there are challenges and obstacles on our way. Among them are our dearth of talent and the patience necessary for continuous learning, financial constraints, and conflict of interests in terms of our responsibilities to our community routines and the demands of the legal practice, experience of loneliness in the profession, attacks from vested interests, and lack of a passionate love for our profession. The lengthy processes in the delivery of justice and institutional corruption are no less challenges.

In spite of the many impediments and pitfalls, we believe that we cannot turn back from our prophetic call to be legal professionals ushering in justice and peace, especially for those who have no accesses to it, and those without the means to obtain it.

Our way forward is no less arduous. On a personal level, we need to establish credibility about ourselves and our prophetic mission in the context of our religious communities, the local church and the society at large. We have to develop rapport with civil society organizations and individuals who share the same profession. We have to develop authentic relationships with the marginalized people. We have to establish networks with the local civil authorities. We have to work in solidarity with other religious and priests who are legal practitioners. We need to move towards local, regional and national networks among ourselves. We have to articulate the spirituality we share as legal professionals in the service of the reign of God. Equally important, we have to constantly learn to become competent, knowledgeable and confident lawyers.

We look forward to the creation of a forum of religious and priests in the legal practice at the district, state and national level. It shall be our commitment to promote legal knowledge among the masses through preparation and publication of material, and providing training. We have to encourage more and more of our brothers and sisters in our communities and the Church at large to take up the legal profession as mission. We also have to facilitate and inspire those already trained in the profession to take up practice.

It is our vocation to be committed God seekers who have imbibed qualities of prophetic critique of unjust structures and principalities; standing for truth and justice, even when no one else does. Following the example of our forefathers and mothers in religious life, we shall re-read our Charism through the ‘optic of the poor’ for today.

We commit ourselves anew, to develop a critique of law and the legal system, so that the justice that is obtained also ushers in care, healing, and compassion; that the inherent structural injustice within our society and even within the legal system that militates against equality and rights of women, Dalits, Adivasis, the Backward Classes, LGBTQs, unorganized workers and other vulnerable people are addressed; and that our legal practice rises above the letter of the law, to be truly transformative both in principles and content.

We realize that we are called to render our legal profession when there is an unprecedented rise of false nationalism based on exclusion, divisiveness and majoritarianism. The principles of democracy and the rule of law are faced with great challenges. We need to create new alliances everywhere based on the values and principles of democracy and the Constitution. We commit ourselves to it.

7th Annual Conference of Women Religious Lawyers Forum “Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of Women Religious in India”

Exactly 7 years ago around 30 women religious lawyers responded to the invitation of Streevani(SSpS) to gather in Pune to reflect on the theme Pursuit of Justice: a Prophetic response of Women Religious in India. Thus the Women Religious Lawyers Forum was initiated in 2008 to provide a platform for all of us to come together, reflect and build a support group under the theme Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of women religious in India. Since then, we have had 6 annual meetings of the Forum co - organized by Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad.

The central mission of the Forum is to continue to develop thoughtful and comprehensive learning in jurisprudence, through our annual workshops and publications of study materials. Our yearly gatherings helps us to accomplish visible progress in the profession, including increases in the number of women religious lawyers who will take up law as a profession and respond to the call of justice ministry in a radical manner.

This year 30 women religious lawyers came together under the banner of Women Religious Lawyers Forum, to reflect on the theme “Pursuit of Justice: Institutional impediments and the role of women religious lawyers” at Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad.

The Guest of honor of the day, Dr. Sunita Krishnan, the director of Prajwala, began her inaugural message on a challenging note. She said, the criminal justice system needs to become victim friendly and we need to understand the law from victim’s perspective. As women religious lawyers we have the advantage of being ethically and spiritually strong. We need to liberate ourselves from the patriarchal trappings and be committed to the cause.

Bro. Varghese Theckanath SG, Director of Montfort Social Institute, dwelt on CBCI – CRI Mutual Relations Document. The session gave an overall understanding of the mutual relations documents of the Church. There was a panel discussion on the case studies on breaches in Mutual Relations and Legal Interventions. The panelist were Sr. Mary Nalpathamkalam MMS, Bro. Varghese Theckanth s.g. and Jaquline FSPM. Each one had their unique and challenging experience to share with the group.

On the following day we had session on Changes in laws FCRA, Income Tax, by Mr. Vijay, Action Aid, Hyderabad. He presented the FCRA Act and its consequences. Many questions and clarifications were made at the end of the session. This was followed by the session on the Trust and Society Laws, dealt by Adv. Bhal Chakranaryan, Pune. He explained the Society Registration Act and Public Trust Act in detail, the duties and responsibilities of an organization or the trustees. In the afternoon we had a session by Dr. Kalpana Kannabiran, Director, Council for Social Development on the Feminist Perspective in Justice Delivery, followed by the second Panel Discussion where religious lawyers working at the grass root shared their experiences and challenges. Sr. Marlene, Sr. Shyny and Nirmala Mathew were the Panelists.

The next annual meeting is tentatively planned for second half of January 2016, in Bangalore. New team members were elected. Sr.Julie George SSpS and Bro.Varghese s.g will be part of the Core Group and the national office will continue to be at Streevani, Pune. In conclusion everyone expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the organizers for the success of the conference and ended the meeting by thanking God.

6th Workshop of Women Religious Lawyers:
“Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of Women Religious in India”

Thirty one Religious from different parts of India gathered under the banner of Women Religious Lawyers Forum, with the theme “Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of Women Religious in India” and to chart the journey of justice in a deeper level. The workshop was jointly organized by Streevani (SSpS), Pune and Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad from 11th - 14th December, 2013 at Atmadharshan, Andheri (E) Mumbai.

At the inaugural session, Sr. Marlene SHSp, the convener of the Forum welcomed the participants and Guest of honor Adv. K.T Thomas, Standing Council for Human Rights Commission, Maharashtra, who spoke about the context and perspective setting for law reforms. Sr. Julie George SSpS the Director of Streevani explained that our journey as a forum which began six years ago provides a platform for networking and as women religious lawyers we need to make a difference to awaken the feminist consciousness that is required in today's situation of injustice especially at this time of mounting violence against women and children. The first session by Bro. Varghese Theckanath SG, Director of Montfort Social Institute, dwelt on our theme Pursuit of Justice: a Prophetic response of the Religious in India and the role of women religious in today's situation.

In line with the temper of our country and our call to respond concretely, the 6th Women Religious Lawyers Forum Meet focused on discussing and studying the laws and the mechanisms for its effective implementation. Our focus areas were Justice Verma Committee Report and the provisions leading to Criminal Law amendment Act, by Virginia Saldanha an Activist and Theologian, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, by Maharukh Adenwala, Advocate and Child Rights Activist Mumbai, Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, by Ms. Anagha Sarpotdar, Research student from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) its background and implications, by Mr. Vernon Gonsalves, Human Rights Activist. The workshop also focused on Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 by Advocate Julie George SSpS. The program concluded with the sessions on Legal Assistance and support to the Rape Victims, by Audrey D'Mello Program Director at Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai. In her interactive session she recommended that as religious lawyers we have a greater role to play in the courts, we cannot sit back anymore, instead we need to extent social and legal support to the victims of Sexual assault and Rape.

The participants spend some time in planning and drafting the mission statement and objectives of the Forum. The workshop ended on 14th noon. Advocate Sr. Marlene SHSp was re-elected as the Convener, Sr. Julie George SSpS and Sr. Nirmala Mathew SAS as core group members and Bro. Varghese as Advisor to the Forum. It was a motivating and educating get together.

Sr. Reena D'Souza SSpS, Streevani

Fifth Women Religious Lawyers Meet:
“Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of Women Religious in India”
29th November to 1st December 2012

The 5th Women Religious Lawyers Forum Meeting was held at Asha Kiran, Mumbai on 29 November to 1 December, 2012. The Forum aimed at promoting the mission of legal education, intervention and support by women religious.

It is a joint initiative of Streevani (Voice of Women), Pune, and Montfort Social Institute (Centre for Human Rights, Sustainable Development Education and Good Governance), Hyderabad. Thirty one women Religious lawyers from across the country deliberated on the theme: “Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of women Religious in India”.

Sr. Merlene Hsp, Convenor of the Forum welcomed the participants. Bishop Agnello Gracias, Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai, reflected on the use of the justice delivery system and law as a means for freeing human beings from oppression, and to create an equitable society in the biblical tradition of the prophets.

Sr. Julie George SSpS, Director, Streevani, highlighted the effective legal intervention of the Forum to bring justice to the victims of the communal violence in Khandmal. The Forum has inspired 30 Religious lawyers, especially women, to work in Khandmal during the last two years. Montfort Brother Markose, a Delhi registered Advocate, living in solidarity with the victims for over two years, has been able to help people of seven affected villages to reclaim their ancestral properties and to rebuild the houses demolished by attackers during the carnage in 2008. He has also helped protect the rights of the victims to worship by facilitating to rebuild as many as eleven churches.

Bro. Varghese Theckanath sg Director, Montfort Social Institute (MSI) said that the recent years have seen a growing interest among religious women in India to take to the legal profession as a prophetic mission. The time has come for networking and collaboration among religious lawyers not only to learn from the experiences and expertise of one another, but also for mutual support in the profession. Thanks to the initiative of the Forum 30 murder cases in Khandmal in which the accused were acquitted by Fast Track courts, have been admitted by the Supreme Court for possible retrial. Religious lawyers, he said, need to continue to proactively participate not only in the justice delivery system, but also in the adoption of just laws.

Fr. P.D. Mathew sj, Advocate of the Supreme Court spoke on networking and collaboration. He encouraged the lawyers to use the Constitution of India to build the kingdom of God and to proclaim the divinity and dignity of every person. The God’s kingdom is the kingdom of Human Rights, Justice, equality and peace to all.

Dr. Hazel D’Lima dhm, reflected on the prophetic response of religious to obtain justice for the poor. She explained that a prophetic response is the reading of a social situation in the light of God’s will and purpose Ms. Flavia Agnes, a pioneer in jurisprudence related to domestic violence, spoke on the role of religious women in defending the rights of women.

Justice Suresh, a former Judge of the Bombay High Court and a well-known human rights activist elaborated on the current challenges in the justice delivery system in the country. He quoted the famous saying from the Gulliver's Travels to caution us and to stress the need for standing for truth. “I said there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.” (Part IV, Chapter V). Gulliver explains to his Houyhnhnm master how, in his society, law can ruin people’s lives because of the corruption into which the justice system has fallen.

Bro. Varghese spoke on the need for innovation and enterprise in the legal profession. Finally, Mr. Arun Pereira, a social activist who was imprisoned for over four years for protecting the rights of the poor, in the name of national security, narrated his harrowing experiences as a political prisoner.

The participants resolved to stand by the poor, especially vulnerable women, as legal professionals. Their shared experiences provided a great impetuous to the participants to develop assistance, networking opportunities, collaborative programs and strategies to become more effective in their profession.

A new Core Committee was elected to lead the Forum, with Sr. Merlene HSp (Convener), Sr. Julie George (Secretary), and, Sr. Shanti Priya BS and Sr. Nirmala Mathew ssa, as members. Bro. Varghese was chosen as an Advisor to the Forum.

Fourth Women Religious Lawyers Meet:
“Pursuit of Justice: A prophetic Response of women religious in India.”

The 4th Women Religious Lawyers Forum meet on “Pursuit of Justice: Prophetic response for our times” was jointly organized by Streevani and Montfort Social Institute, (Centre for Human Rights and Sustainable Development Education), from 27th ñ 30th November, 2011 at Navinta Retreat Centre, Delhi. 27 Women Religious Lawyers came together from all over India on a common platform for a four fold purpose:

  • To Update oneself on the emerging legal corpus so that one can use them effectively in the legal practice.
  • To familiarize oneself with the human rights protection mechanisms in the country.
  • To build solidarity among oneself not only as legal practitioners, but as religious who share a prophetic mission in the Church
  • To share ones struggles and challenges that encounter as women, as religious, as members of minority community and especially as lawyers and for a purposeful interaction among us with a forward looking strategy.

During the inaugural Session Archbishop Vincent Conceissao, Archbishop of Delhi, Mr Cyriac Joseph, Honourable Justice of Supreme Court and Mr Cyriac Thomas, Honourable member, Commission for Minority Education Institution addressed the gathering.

Archbishop Vincent in his message said from his own experience, “unless you change the system, nothing will change” and “if justice prevails, peace will prevail”. In the Inaugural Address, Mr Cyriac Joseph, Honourable Justice, Supreme Court exhorted the Religious Women Lawyers to have a deeper commitment to justice and to the knowledge of the law.

Mr Cyriac Thomas, Honourable member, Commission for Minority Education Institution while addressing the gathering said that “our strength is in our credibility, therefore strengthen it”. He also briefly spoke about the working of the Minority Commission for Education.

Adv. Markose SG, who is working at Kandhamal for the past one and half years shared his experience of working with the grass roots at Kandhamal. He explained his interventions at the affected villages to bring back the people and to build houses in four villages where people were afraid to come back. Mr John Dayal spoke on the “Communal Violence Bill”. He made clear the present realities and the need for us to respond to it.

There was a Panel discussion and sharing by some of the senior Lawyers on certain skills and know-how in the Court: The participants visited the Supreme Court and National Child Rights Commission. The experience was wonderful for all especially those visiting the Apex Court for the first time.

We also had a session on Lokpal bill by Ms Manisha Sharma, Director of the National Advisory Council. The comparative study of the Lokpal and Jan lokpal helped the group to understand better the proposed bill.

At the conclusion of the workshop, it was decided to make the list of all the women religious lawyers. The participants were from ten states. Hence one from each state took the responsibility for the same

A core group for the women religious lawyers Forum was set up and the following sisters were chosen.

Third ReligiousLawyers Meet:
Skill training Workshop for religious lawyers/activists
25-28 February 2010, Hyderabad

The Skill Training workshop for the religious lawyers held in St. Ann’s Generalate, Hyderabad from 25-28 February 2010 was jointly organized by Streevani, Pune and MSI- Hyderabad with the generous support of national CRI, Delhi. The total number of participants was 28 (24 women and 4 men). Most of them being experienced in the field of law made the group a resourceful one. The sole purpose of this workshop was to respond concretely to Kandhmal’s calling as defenders of justice. Bro. Varghese representing MSI, Srs. Helen Saldanha and Julie George, representing Streevani were the facilitators. The resource team consisted of eminent and experienced legal experts and human rights activists. They were Adv. Kannabiran, Dr. Kalpana Kannabiran, Professor Sarathi, Adv. Pradeep Prabhu, Mr. Jeevan Kumar and Fr. Ajay Singh, the Director of Diocesan Social Works, Bhubaneshwar.

The two-fold objectives of the workshop was:

  • To develop a critical understanding of the criminal procedures in reference to specific cases
  • Providing skills for fact-finding for those who have made a commitment to give time and energy for Kandhmal cause.

Hence, this group had a special role to play as a legal fraternity and see that the tide is changed which can be done by putting the heads together in understanding the criminal procedures to specifically apply it to Kandhmal cases.

The next session was by Advocate Kannabiran and Kalpana Kannabiran and they dealt with the criminal procedures and fact-finding. The session ended with clarifications based on the judgments of Kandhamal. During the post-lunch session the participants reviewed the judgements in the Kandhmal cases in small groups and analyzed the sections under which they were tried.

On the next day Prof. V. Sarathi (Professor, Criminal Law, NALSAR, Hyderabad) dealt with the topic, “Criminal Procedures and Evidence Law”. He gave the full procedural details of criminal cases in short. The next session on “How the criminal courts function” was by Adv. Pradeep Prabhu, National Institute of Rural Development, (NIRD) Hyderabad. A session on Fact-finding from the victim’s perspective, by Mr. Jeevan Kumar based on his 36 years of experience in defense of human rights shared his knowledge with the group. The afternoon sessions focused on Plan of action. This process had already begun on the previous day in terms of identifying the areas of interventions as legal professionals. Each of the participants decided to give time to Kandhmal in March and April and took up various responsibilities coordinated by Streevani and MSI.

Second Women Religious Lawyers Meet:
“Pursuit of Justice: Prophetic Response to our times”
December 14-18, 2009 Bhubaneshwar, Orissa

The second workshop of the women religious lawyers was held in Catholic Charities, Jatni, Orissa in view of exposing to the current realities of gender justice in the context of communal violence against the minorities. The total number of participants were 22. The methodology followed included interactive sessions, group work, exposure program to some of the affected areas of Khandmal district, input sessions and a plan of action.

On the second day, we visited Kandhmal the land of martyrs. We went to Bakingia where approximately 250 Christian families were affected. All the Christian houses were ransacked and destroyed. The people live together in tents due to fear. The nearby Protestant and Catholic Churches were almost fully burnt. Thereafter we went to Janvikas and pastoral centre and the place painfully reminded us of Sr. Meena and Fr. Challan who faced the brutality of the criminals. The sisters also had a stopover at Balliguda Church which was set on fire.

The participants made few observations for ones learning and further analyzed through the interactions with the people, lawyers and the social workers. Visit to the Superintendent of Police and the fast track courts gave us a glimpse of the procedures related to justice.

The Third day’s theme for the session was on “Justice and Human Rights as Mission in the context of growing Communal Disharmony in India” by Bro. Varghese Thecknath SG. He dealt with the topic relating to the situation of Khandamal. He also paused few questions to the participants with this regard: Can there be anything done in the East to support the situation? Can the Western and Northern part systematically support the Eastern area? What is the role of the Church? What is the call for women religious as Advocates and what do they need to do? Sr. Shalini Mulackal PBVM discussed the theme “Our Identity and role as women, as religious, as defenders of human rights and as members of minority community”. The Holy Eucharist was celebrated at noon with Rev. Raphael Cheenath the Archbishop of Cuttack&Bhubaneswar.

On the last day, Fr. Dibyo who is a lawyer and involved in the court proceedings of Victims of Khandmal violence, gave a brief description on how the attacks were started and role played by the Church in combating the violence against the Christians. He said only after 2008 August attack the Church initiated legal action for justice. According to government officials the number of deaths reported was 52 but in reality it was 93. At the end of the workshop a core group was formed to initiate the follow up of the plans envisaged in defense of justice. The participants agreed to communicate with each other once a month through email concerning the commitment to Khandmal.

First Women Religious Lawyers Meet:
“Pursuit of Justice: Prophetic Response to our times”

After a number of discussions and reflections on our involvement in the justice ministry, in 2008 Streevani planned to organize an interactive session with women religious working for justice in the court of law or in the related field. Finally it came true on 10th October 2008, where Streevani organized a two-day Advocates’ Meet to interact on the theme, “Pursuit of Justice: A Prophetic Response of women religious in India” in Pune. It provided a platform for women religious lawyers to come together, reflect and build a support group. It also helped to bring many more into this field who, though have acquired LLB do not practice for some reasons. Some are not allowed or encouraged to practice, while others do not take the risk in getting into this apostolate. As a group of Advocates, we can make a difference to awaken feminist consciousness that is required in todayís situation of injustice.

The Resource persons and the topics dealt were as follows:

  • Women’s rights and legal advocacy : Role of women religious: Adv. Flavia Agnes
  • “Building gender perspectives in advocacy”: Issues and Concerns affecting women religious: Helen Saldanha

Along with this, the participants were given time for sharing of personal experience (as a religious and advocate) in a Panel that was formed state wise. There were participants from the states of Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi and Punjab. The key areas were sharing on Personal Spirituality: Struggles faced and hopes kept alive, Suggestions for mobilizing the support of the church for legal advocacy and highlighting issues-communitarian and mission (Each person for 10 minutes).

Members of Women Religious Lawyers Forum
Sr. no. Name of the Sisters Address Phone No.
1 Julie George SSpS Streevani 1&2, Lotus, Neco Gardens, Viman Nagar, Pune – 14
2 Alphonsa Fatima FMM St. Francis Convent, 1591, Trichy Road, Coimbatore 641 018.
3 Philomena Pichhapilly Jagruti Sadan, Vidya Nagar, Wanjiri, Nagpur 440026.
0712 2537391
4 Philomena Thomas Director, Women’s Welfare Centre, Flat No. 7, Ashiya Nagar Road, Pune 411 006.
5 Marlene SHSp Shanti Ghar, Mahakali Road, Mumbai.
6 Avila SHSp Lokamangal, Ghot P.O. Chamorshi Tq, Gadchiroli Dt. Maharastra –442 604 07135-257473
7 Gracy Thomas Nirmala Convent, Lalipur, Mandla M.P – 461661 07642-250604
8 Keerti St. Teresa Vidya Deep Savina, Sector – 12 Udaypur Rajastan – 313002. 0294-280124
9 Leona Merici Convent West Pavel Nagar 29/103-104, New Delhi – 110008.
10 Nalpathamkalam Mary M.M.S Mary Nalpathamkalam, Medical Mission Sisters, Collectorate P.O, Kottayam, Kerala 686 002 Phone: 09447409523 0481-2563677
11 Regi Augustine MMS Medical Mission Sisters Collectorate Post Kottayam, Kerala.
12 Tessy OSF Raipur, Chattisgarh.
13 Namrata Sacred Heart Convent Sector – 26, Chandigarh
09417250141 09438074491
14 Reetha Susai FMM St. Thomas Convent No.2 Rosary Church Road Mylapore, Santhome Chennai – 08.
15 Nirmala Mathew Arunodaya 67, Kirlampudi Layout, Visakhapatanam, Andhra Pradesh – 530 017
16 Ida Lobo SSpS Deepalaya D-104 New Shangrilla Apartments Udnoor Road Gulbarga – 585102
17 Gladys CSST St. Joseph’s Convent Indiranagar Gulbarga – 585102
18 Tresa Pappu 66, Dr. Gopal Rao Deshmukh Marg, Ville Tresa, Mumbai – 26.
07382733930 – A.P
19 Shobha LCHR P.B. No.200 Guwahati, Assam – 781001 09435554962
20 Gemma OSU Ursuline Convent Purulva road J.D.W.W.Trust Ranchi, Jharkhand
21 Rosalia (Rosa) Holy Cross Convent Burdwan Compound Ranchi Jharkhand – 834001
06546 223944
22 Mary Scaria SCJM 21-A Ring road Lalpat Nagar New Delhi – 110024
23 Anees Mathew Nellikunnel Jyothirgamaya College Road Muvattupuzha Kerala – 686661
24 Teresa Koorely Fatima Sisters Genaralate, Fatima Nagar Pune – 411013
25 Jeya Jyoti CSST Mt. St.Joseph Convent, Avalurpet Road, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu – 606601 09952656202
26 Bridget Helpers of Mary Sakinaka, Mumbai
27 Tessy Paul MSI N.H.R.D.C Tripathy - Mandal Nalgonda Dist A.P – 508247
28 Jacintha Lobo FMA Auxilium Navajeevana, Salesian Sisters, No.257, 1st Main, Chamrajpet, Bangalore – 560 018
080 26704420
29 Molly Alex FMM Sr. Molly Alex Thannipara fmm St.Francies Xavier’s Convent Kaloor, Kochi – 682017.
30 Meena Carvalho Helpers of Mary, Mumbai 09424509426
31 Tresa Paul Legal Assistance Office St Xavier’s, West Gandhi Maidan Patna – 1
32 Annie Fernandes Helpers Mary, Mumbai
33 Aurora Brignaza Missionary Sisters of Ajmer
34 Carol Geeta Missionary sisters of Ajmer
35 Jacqulin Nirmala College, Alma Mater Red Fields, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 09442430337
36 Grancy Jose Canossian Sisters,Prem Mandir 4, Harris Road,Benson Town Bangalore 560018
37 Flory Menezes Asara, Ganesh Kripa Society Sainikwadi, Vadgaonsheri Pune – 411 014 020-27031152
38 Pushpa Louis Good Shepherd Virar, Mumbai
39 Prabha St.Anne’s Convent Broadway Chennai – 53
044 26701027
40 Amrita George FCC C/o HRLN, Delhi.
41 Alice,SJC Cluny Sisters, Nava Chetana Nadager Wada, Kundgol P.O Dharward Dist. 581113
42 Theresa JMJ CITRA 12-1-334/17/1, Lalapet Secunderabad – 500 017, A.P.
43 Rani Maria Niketan Convent Talamadgi Gandhi Nagar P.O Humanabad Taluka Bidir Dist. Karnataka
44 Rosily Holy Cross Social Service Centre Holy Cross Road Hazaribag – 825301 Jharkamd
06546 224727
45 Vandana MSI, Vijayawada
46 Sudha Varghese Notre Dame Sisters
47 Mariola BS Bethany Sisters
48 Agnes Almeida DHM Nirmala Samaj Kendra, Navoyard, Xavier Nagar-Baroda, 900024, Gujarat.
49 Lissy Joseph Sisters of Charity B.5. Paisha Apartments S.P. Road, Secunderabad A.P. 500003.
50 Manju Bara St. Joseph Savika Sangh, Indore 09685828730
51 Sudeepa Holy Cross of Hazaribag, Trivandrum.
52 Rose Mary Pondicheri
53 Linnet D’silva DEEKSHA Sriramnagar, Attikolla Dharwad – 580 007
54 Valsa FMM Providence Convent Dharmaram College, Hosur road, Bangalore – 560029
55 Lata Lakara Holy Cross Hazaribag, Bhopal
56 Helen Saldanha SSpS CBCI office for Women Delhi 09868618613
57 Nisha Domestic Workers Home 12,Ambalipura, Bellandi Bangalore – 103.
58 Sheeba Jose Maria Sadan 16, Strachery Rd. Civil Lines Allahabad 211001, U.P
59 Suma Jose SD Jeevan Dhara, Shantidham Provincialate, Mariyam Nagar, Ghaziabad, U.P
60 Carmelina Valles Mount Mary Convent, Mount Mary Road, Bandra – 51
61 Alphonsa M Good shephered sisters, Amaravati, Gundur, A.P – 522020
62 Cynthia CJ St. Joseph’s Convent Digha Ghat P.O. Patna , Bihar 800011
63 Hilda Fernandes Sakhya Women’s Guidance Cell The Image, Ist Floor, Nirmala Nalka Nallasopara (W) Mumbai
64 Arati Madurai
65 Vaideki, 09176588830
66 Amala Chennai
67 Felicita D’Souza G LCHR P.B. No.200 Guwahati, Assam – 781001  
68 Jancy Antony St. Ann’s School, 2718,Jalna Road, Beed-431 122  
69 Joice Kurian St. Ann's Health Centre, Ajithsinghnagar, Vijayawada – 520 015  
70 Annie Joseph St. Ann's Hospital, Avanigadda Krishna(Dt) PIN-521 123  
71 Paska Ryntathiang BSDB Shilong
72 Asha Preethi D’Souza UFC Guwhati
73 Ruby Joseph Sacred Heart School Majitha Road Amristsar Dist Punjab – 143 001 09464779932
74 Sauija CMC St. Theresa Convent School Sarvodaya Nagar Vijayanagar Ghaziabab U.P. – 201 009.
75 Saumy SJC St. Joseph’s Generalate S. H. Mount P.O Nattassery, Kottayam Dist Kerala – 686 006.
76 Seli SMI Sisters of Mary Immaculate Krishnagar P.O, Nadia Dt. West Bengal.
77 Sangita Rose St. Ann's Convent, Bijulia, Ramgarh, Jarkhand – 829122. 09430385464
78 Alphonsa Job St.Ann's Sthree Shakthi Centre, Rayam P.O, Srikakulam Andhra Pradesh – 532 127 09441944707
79 Shephy Davis Clarapuram Convent, Azad Raod, Eranakulam D.T, Aluva – 683101 Kerala 09400996724
80 Sr. Jessy Kurian Advocate Supreme Court Lawyer Chamber 120 Bhagavandas Road New Delhi – 1.
81 Sagayamary M Sisters of Charity of St.Anne L.T. Road, Borovili (W) Mumbai.
82 Selin Joseph SSpS Holy Spirit Convent HIG – 361, K.5 Kalinga Vihar, Patrapada Khurela Bhubaneshwar, Orissa.
83 Dominic FMM Chennai 09444218336
84 Sr. Monica Suchiang, Loreto sister from Kolkata. 09874051089
85 Sr. Shanti Priya Bethany Provincial House, Nirmala Nagar, Dharwar – 580003.
86 Clara Michael Gonsalves Daughters of the Heart of Mary Talasari Thane.
87 Esperansa Vaz Canossa convent Mahakali Caves Road Andheri East Mumbai – 400093
88 Meena Godad Snehasadan H.N. 10 Next to Cheshire Home Mahakali Caves Rd Andheri East Mumbai – 93.
89 Monica Masceranha C/o Maharashtra Dayanand Society Vadoli Talasari Dist. Thana – 401 606 09503282394
90 Reena D’Souza Streevani 1&2, Lotus, Neco Gardens Viman Nagar, Pune – 14.
91 Shyny Girvasis Lokamangal, Ghot P.O. Chamorshi Tq, Gadchiroli Dt. Maharastra – 442 604 07135-257473
92 Stella Ashadeep Fulwadi, Bhensdhara P.O Dharampur, Valsad Dist. Gujarat – 396050