Lawyers or law breakers

Lawyers are small unrighteous souls’, said Plato long ago and this image about them is almost etched on the minds of the people all over the world. But at the same it is also true that lawyers have always been in the forefront in voicing against the corruption, exploitation and arbitrariness and vigorously fought for the establishment of rule of law and democratic rights of the people across the world. There is hardly any profession which is free from blemishes but any speck of dirt stuck on the legal community is clearly visible to the general public because all omissions and commissions of the judiciary, particularly the lawyers, have wider repercussions on the society.

What prompted me to write on this controversial topic is a news item that Bar Associations of Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi have decided not to defend those who have been arrested in the cases of bomb blasts at these places. Every patriotic and right thinking person would like to see that culprits should be punished but is it possible without fair trial? Can we blindly believe the police, which often implicates the innocent people and perhaps that is one of the reasons that the acquittal rate in our country is 94 per cent, the highest in the world.

A few months back the similar resolution was passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association that no lawyer would be allowed to represent the case of those arrested in the sex scandal, which rocked the valley. The accused persons were left in lurch and at long last they heaved the relief when the trial was shifted from Jammu and Kashmir to Punjab.

Though legal ethics is often described as an oxymoron or contradiction in terms–lay people find the concept amusing and lawyers can find ethics impossible. Here, however, is not the case of individual lawyers but the collective decision of the Bar Associations.

The question, therefore, is whether bar associations have any right to pass such resolutions and act on them? The answer is emphatic ‘NO’. Bar Associations cannot be law unto themselves. They are meant to protect the rights and duties of the lawyers and take such steps as are required for their welfare. The Bar Council of India, which is the creation of the statutory Advocates Act, has specifically prescribed that lawyers should not refuse the briefs and they ought not prejudge and case, howsoever, heinous it may appear on the face of it. So who gave the rights to Bar Associations to pre -judge about any accused?

Newspaper report says that an advocate Mohammad Shoaib was attacked on 12th August 2008 in the Lucknow sessions court for providing aid to some youths charged by the Police with being terrorists. This is no less reprehensible than terrorism itself and it amounts to the slaughter of the legal system of the civilized society. As a Doctor cannot refuse to attend even a sick dacoit or an injured enemy, similarly; the lawyers cannot behave like lumpens and deny any body his/her fundamental rights to be defended by any lawyer of his/her choice. The lawyers are duty bound to assist the courts in dispensation of justice and not in the obstruction of justice. It can only be hoped that Bar Associations will rise to occasion and lift the embargo forthwith imposed on anybody, otherwise justice will be a farce and the image of lawyers will get irretrievably eroded.