1) Primary question for Men facing false matrimony cases, is how do we choose our lawyer. Share your thoughts.
A man must avoid taking services of a lawyer who is referred by someone in a men’s support group. Instead he should look for a couple of criminal lawyers online in justdial or some such directories. Then, he should meet them in court or in the evenings at their office. We generally recommend the man to look for a lawyer in the age group of 35 to 55. The man should tell his story very briefly to the lawyer. If a lawyer suggests or insists about out of court settlement, then the man should not take such a lawyer. He should appoint a lawyer, who is willing to fight the case for 5 or 6 years.
SIFF and many credible men’s support groups in India have a formal policy that they will not recommend lawyers. We all have not changed this policy for the last 15 years. If a lawyer ends up damaging the case of a member deliberately or due to his mistakes, then the men’s NGO loses all its reputation. Men’s support groups train men about how to choose lawyers and how to safeguard themselves.
2) Why should one select a lawyer in the age group of 35 to 55?
Well, a man can select lawyers from any age group. But if the lawyer is too young, then he may not have the desired experience and he may not have junior lawyers under him. Given the kind of institutionalised discrimination men face inside the legal system, a man should not take chances. If a lawyer is too old, then he believes that divorce is a sin and he can avoid being a facilitator to such a sin. Due to his age and experience, he is very less likely to yield, if the man wants to fight the case in the style of men’s activists.
The men’s support groups teach men to fight using methods, which are somewhat different from what many lawyers typically suggest.
3) What’s the best practice of negotiating remuneration with a lawyer – one time payment, annual or payment per hearing? Elaborate why.
As far as payment is concerned, a man should give a small token advance to the lawyer. He can then pay for each petition filed by the lawyer and he can also pay for each hearing. He should never agree for a lump sum or one time payment deal for fighting all his 2 or 3 cases. Such deals are not cheap and they are very one-sided and risky for the man. What if the lawyer abandons him in the middle or turns hostile after taking half of the money? Can you drag your lawyer to a consumer court for recovering the fees for which he did not give services?
A man should have the choice to change his lawyer at any point of time.
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4) Can one have two lawyers at the same time?
This is a very interesting question. Of course, one can have two lawyers. One lawyer can fight the false criminal cases and the other lawyer can fight the civil cases, property cases and domestic violence cases. This gives the man a lot more control over his cases. The only challenge is, you may end up spending some 20% more.
For my own cases, I had two lawyers from two reputed law firms. I am still awed by the work they did for me and the freedom they gave me in implementing men’s rights strategies. I became very friendly with both of them. I sometimes used to accompany them to see proceedings in their other cases as well.
5) Do some lawyers deliberately mislead the men? How can men safeguard themselves?
Lawyers just like any other self-employed professionals want to increase their profits. By giving misleading advice, they can increase their income a bit. However, this can cause a lot of damage to a man’s situation. A lawyer may make the man file more cases so that he makes more money. Then cases may go nowhere and the man loses his money and time.
Men must not get too desperate for a quick escape from the situation. They should join a men’s support group and develop some patience to learn all the tricks of the trade. A men’s support group is like a litigant’s forum and it’s members are completely on the man’s side. Men can also get trained to fight their own case party-in-person.
6) Can you give some examples of misleading advice, so that men can be careful?
This is an elaborate topic. Most lawyers mislead their clients about the time it takes to file for divorce. Many men fall for it, when a lawyer says,
File for divorce. Generally one gets divorce in 2 to 4 years. The earlier you file it, the better it is. Start the process.
A contested divorce usually takes a very long time like 6 to 7 years. There are other ways to get divorce in much less time.
The other bad advice given by lawyers is to file a case under Section 9 (or restitution of conjugal rights). In my opinion, this is a useless case that wastes a man’s time with no benefit of any kind. Some lawyers also mislead the man during out of court settlements and mutual consent divorces (MCDs). Many men end up paying money to estranged wife, while the divorce does not even go through.
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7) Why do men’s rights activists recommend different strategies than lawyers?
In case of matrimonial cases, the strategy of most of the lawyers is to get an out of court financial settlement done between the wife and the husband as early as possible. That way, lawyers of the wife and those of the husband can earn good money without fighting it out in court. The more the settlement amount, the more money lawyers are likely to make. This has led to a situation, where men have to ‘buy’ their divorce.
Men’s support groups on the other hand suggest men to give a good fight in court cases, expose and corner the women who file false cases and get out by paying very less or even zero alimony. I know NRI men who have paid one time alimony as low as INR 3 lakh. The more desperate a man gets for a quick exit, the more he ends up paying.
8) Feminists or lawyers? Who have caused the maximum damage to men’s human rights in India?
Well, many influential feminists are also lawyers. Indira Jaising and Flavia Agnes are lawyers. The former drafted one-sided domestic violence act. Men are facing institutional discrimination today. They are denied protection under many laws like domestic violence act, sexual harassment at workplace act and rape laws. Men are blackmailed into paying huge alimonies.
Institutional discrimination of men is more due to lawyers than feminists you see on twitter, in bollywood or in the media. One feminist lawyer in Bangalore got Karnataka High Court to reverse its landmark order giving protection to men in domestic violence case. So, we have to watch out for feminist lawyers and the overall lawyer community. Let’s also not forget that politicians like Salman Khurshid, Kapil Sibal and Ravishankar Prasad, who spearheaded anti-male policies in the judiciary are lawyers as well.
Men’s rights organisations exist because lawyers as a community did nothing in all these years to protect the human rights of men. Feminists are angry people, whom you can put on the defensive. But, lawyers are much smarter compared to extremist feminists and they have the protection from judiciary and bar councils. Sometimes, lawyers have become very abusive and violent towards male victims in court premises as well.
9) Many men complain of lawyers double crossing them after taking huge sums of money. How can men take precautions?
Men should join a Men’s Support group so that they can get many tips from counselors and other male victims there. Matrimonial disputes follow a life cycle. The problems often begin soon after marriage and progress in a certain way for sometime, often with abuse and then the litigation stage begins which also follows some patterns.When men learn the life cycle of litigation in a support group, they will get an idea about what to expect in their court cases and how to keep track of the work of their lawyers. So, he will develop capabilities to see warning signs much in advance, if the lawyer has intentions other than the well-being of his client. Accordingly, he can decide whether to continue or change his lawyer.
10) What if one meets a lawyer, who was previously a men’s activist or victim just like him? Should men take services of such lawyers?
In general, such lawyers can be somewhat better than others. But, the man must take all the precautions that I mentioned earlier.
We have to also differentiate between work of men’s rights NGOs and work of law firms. Support groups aim to minimize matrimonial court cases and reduce economic hardships of male victims. If men’s rights activists really succeed, law firms will close down and income of many lawyers practicing in matrimonial disputes will get reduced.
Lawyers as a community have protested against stopping the arrests of men and their parents under section 498A. When the men’s rights community and lawyer community are at loggerheads with each other in this manner, which way will a male victim turned lawyer go? It depends. That is why we say, a man must take all precautions, even if a lawyer is a fellow men’s rights activist, his own brother, uncle or a close relative.
11) Can you say anything positive about lawyers?
In general, lawyers are not bad people. It is just that they are insecure about their income and livelihood getting impacted, if the unjust laws go for a toss one fine day. A lawyer’s work in courtrooms is quite difficult. In most courts, lawyers won’t even get a place to sit. They also have to run around different court halls in the same premises or across multiple courts. Drafting of a petition or preparing for the cross examinations is a very complex process. Many lawyers also do not take strong pro-male stands because they do not want to annoy the judges.
One aspect of the legal profession that most people ignore is, many times lawyers take very less fees from poor people and they try to compensate that loss by charging a bit more from well to do clients. When a man invests some time to become friendly with his lawyer, he can then influence the lawyer in much better way to implement his strategies.
*Views expressed by the interviewee are his own
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