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A ‘basic’ upheld

Statesman News Service | Editorial |

The pathetic state of affairs in lower levels of the legal profession has been emphasised by the Supreme Court while castigating the Gurgaon Bar Association ~ by no stretch of the imagination a “local” or marginal body ~ for preventing its members from representing persons accused in the infamous Ryan International School murder case.

When doing so, a Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra, sent out a stern yet welcome signal that it was not for lawyers or their associations to sit in judgment; and that as “officers of the court” they had onerous duties to perform: a reality often overlooked now that the profession is being increasingly divided on ideological lines and has become prone to playing to the gallery.

The disgust of their Lordships (Justice AM Khanwilkar and Mr Justice DY Chandrachud were the other members of the Bench) was evident that they continued to admonish the Bar Association even after being informed that the offensive resolution had been withdrawn. “We sympathised with the parents”, a representative of the association sought to explain.

The Bench retorted that “sympathy is different, it does not mean not allowing a lawyer to represent an accused in court.” Their Lordships reminded that “the tradition of the Bar is that they are under an obligation not to obstruct any lawyer from appearing for any accused, whatever it is”.

Adding that “it is necessary to state without any hesitation that an accused, whatever the offence may be has the inherent right to be represented by a counsel of his choice”, after being informed of the Bar Association having issued a ban order on its members.

The apex court directed the lawyers not to create any further impediments in the process of justice being administered. The apex court ruling has to be a seen in the context of similar bans being ordered by Bar associations in the “Nirbhaya” rape-and-murder case in the Capital, and the terrorist attack in Mumbai.

Hopefully after the most recent order Bar associations will refrain from courting cheap popularity or political favour by such action. It is a pity that governments have actually encouraged such “taking the law into your own hands” ~ bans on counsel are nothing short of that.

The less-than-responsible electronic media has also contributed to this miscarriage of justice: TV reporters seek “reactions” to judicial orders that amount to contempt of court. And going by the manner in which trials are now conducted in studios (kangaroo courts?), now “justice” is compromised when a person is granted bail even when no charge-sheet has been filed.

The managers of TV channels need to be enlightened on legal basics ~ and should not allow their “anchors” to sink judicial niceties.