Kerala may be God's own country, but its Bar Council has decided that a person of God -- in this case a Catholic nun who is a law graduate -- is not eligible to become a lawyer.
The state Bar Council's argument is that its rules do not allow persons like priests, nuns and sanyasis engaged in eligious activities to become advocates.
However, Sister Teena Jose is determined to legally fight the Bar Council of Kerala's decision, which she says "is discriminatory and arbitrary."
"I will fight it out. In India, every citizen has a right to take up any profession. I cannot be denied permission to become a lawyer only because I am a nun," Sister Jose, belonging to the Kerala-based Congregation of Mother Carmel, told rediff.com.
The nun's struggle for what she calls "professional justice" began when the Bar Council of Kerala rejected her enrolment application early this year, ruling that as a religious person, she is engaged in another profession and thus cannot enroll as a lawyer.
Sister Jose, a law graduate from the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, argued before the Bar Council's enrolment committee that she was not engaged in a salaried job or profession, and that she was simply following a religious ifestyle.
Hurt by the Bar Council's decision, Sister Jose filed a petition in the Kerala high court asking it intervene in the matter, arguing that the Council's decision was "illegal, arbitrary and an infringement of the Constitution of India."
Justice K Balakrishnan Nair, who heard her plea, asked Sister Jose to implead the Bar Council of India also in the case. Following this, the nun forwarded her application to the Bar Council of India.
Her lawyer Wilson Urmese says it was shocking the Bar Council of Kerala has refused to allow the nun to become a lawyer.
"There are a number of priests and nuns across India who are enrolled as lawyers. Our case is very strong and I am sure the Bar Council of India will hear our plea," he said.
He said the Bar Council's Advocates Act or Rules do not impose restrictions on nuns or other religious persons becoming lawyers.
Bar Council of Kerala chairperson K B Mohandas said a selection and enrolment committee scrutinizes all applicants.
Asked if rules prohibit religious persons from becoming a lawyer, he said he would not comment on the matter as it was sub judice.
"Generally, all the rejected applications for enrolments are forwarded to the Bar Council of India for approval. Since the nun has filed a case, her case has also gone to the BCI," Mohandas added.