Lawyers have to defend even terrorists: SC

The Supreme Court has ruled lawyers or their associations cannot refuse to appear for accused whether they are terrorist, rapists, murderers.

Last Updated: Dec 08, 2010, 00:40 AM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled lawyers
or their associations cannot refuse to appear for accused
whether they are terrorist, rapists, murderers or any others
as such refusal would be a violation of the Constitution, Bar
Council norms and tenets of the Bhagavad Gita.

A Bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha
Mishra in an order deplored the growing tendency among bar
associations across the country to pass resolutions against
appearing for certain accused persons for some reason or the
other.

"Professional ethics requires that a lawyer cannot
refuse a brief, provided a client is willing to pay his fee,
and the lawyer is not otherwise engaged. Hence, the action of
any Bar Association in passing such a resolution that none of
its members will appear for a particular accused, whether on
the ground that he is a policeman or on the ground that he is
a suspected terrorist, rapist, mass murderer, etc. is against
all norms of the Constitution, the statute and professional
ethics.

"It is against the great traditions of the Bar which
has always stood up for defending persons accused for a crime.

Such a resolution is, in fact, a disgrace to the legal
community. We declare that all such resolutions of Bar
Associations in India are null and void and the right-minded
lawyers should ignore and defy such resolutions if they want
democracy and rule of law to be upheld in this country", the
apex court said.

It is the duty of a lawyer to defend no matter what
the consequences and a lawyer, who refuses to do so, is not
following the message of the Gita, " the Bench said.
The bench passed the order while quashing the counter
criminal cases filed by policemen and lawyers of Coimbatore
during an agitation in 2007.

In this case the Madras High Court had on the basis of
the recommendations made by Justice(retd)K P Sivasubramaniam,
Commission of Inquiry, ordered a compensation of Rs 50,000 to
advocate A S Mohammed Rafi who was allegedly assaulted by
policemen during a clash with them.

At that time both the lawyers and women police constables
involved in the fracas lodged counter criminal cases. The Bar
Association of Coimbatore had also passed a resolution that no
member of the Coimbatore Bar will defend the accused policemen
in the criminal case against them.

Rafi who was not satisfied with the quantum of
compensation moved the apex court for a higher compensation.
The apex court while enhancing the compensation to Rs
1.50 lakh as advised by amicus curiae and senior counsel Altaf
Ahmed, however, minced no words in expressing displeasure at
the manner in which the bar associations have been frequently
passing resolutions asking advocates not to appear for certain
persons.

"Sometimes, there are clashes between policemen and
lawyers and the Bar Association passes a resolution that no
one will defend the policemen in the criminal case in court.

Similarly, sometimes the Bar Association passes a resolution
that they will not defend a person who is alleged to be a
terrorist or a person accused of a brutal or heinous crime or
involved in a rape case.

"In our opinion, such resolutions are wholly illegal,
against all traditions of the bar and against professional
ethics. Every person, however, wicked, depraved, vile,
degenerate, perverted, loathsome, execrable, vicious or
repulsive he may be regarded by society has a right to be
defended in a court of law and correspondingly it is the duty
of the lawyer to defend him," the bench said.

PTI