03/21/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Kerala High Court gives priests and sisters go-ahead to practice law

by Nirmala Carvalho

The judgment states that "those professing to a faith do not constitute a threat and cannot be excluded a priori from the list of applicants".  Cardinal Vithayathil: "I am satisfied; it is recognition of the work of the church for human rights."

Kochi (AsiaNews) – Catholic priests and sisters will now be able to practice law in Kerala. The judgment handed down on 21 March by the High Court, the highest court authority in the state, did away with one of the discriminations against the Catholic Church. "Happiness and satisfaction", were expressed by Cardinal Vithayathil, archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, in an interview with AsiaNews.

The Cardinal said: "It is a fair judgment which everyone was expecting. It is also an acknowledgement of the work of the Catholic Church with the poor across India." Many priests give legal aid for free to those who cannot afford to pay fees to other lawyers: this is often the only way for poor people to have access to justice.

"Priests and sisters are 'ethical lawyers', and this judgment allows the Church to introduce Catholic ethics into trials in Kerala. Through this judgment, the Church is now a visible sign of being an institution that defends human rights," continued the cardinal from the Syro-Malabar rite.

The High Court verdict, pronounced by the chief justice, V. K. Bali, said: "A person who wishes to become a lawyer and who professes to a faith does not constitute a threat and cannot be excluded a priori from the list of applicants."

The decision nullifies an appeal filed a year ago by the Bar Council of India, which was against the decision to admit a Catholics priest and two sisters.

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