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‘Immoral’ for lawyers to represent rape accused say Saket advocates, as fast-track PIL accepted & court to open

Justice required, without representation?
Justice required, without representation?

The Saket Bar Association has resolved that its 2,500 members must not represent the six Delhi men accused of the rape and murder in order to ensure “speedy justice”, as the court’s fast-track court that will hear the case will be inaugurated today.

Saket Bar Association president Rajpal Kasana told Firstpost: “If the accused requires a lawyer, they can go for legal aid. That is the fundamental right of the accused. An advocate from the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) can defend the case.”

Another local bar member, Sanjay Kumar, told Agence France-Presse: “We have decided that no lawyer will stand up to defend them. It would be immoral to defend the case.”

The 2,500 lawyers of the association would” stay away” to ensure “speedy justice”, he reportedly said. According to Firspost, the DLSA had not received any requests to appoint legal representation for the accused yet.

Under the Bar Council of India’s (BCI) conduct rules, an “advocate is bound to accept any brief”. However, “special circumstances may justify his refusal to accept a particular brief”.

On the contrary, advocates in England & Wales must accept all briefs on the basis of the cab-rank rule, subject to few exceptions. Under the Bar Standards Board’s code of conduct, barristers:

“must not withhold [advocacy] services (a) on the ground that the nature of the case is objectionable to him or to any section of the public; (b) on the ground that the conduct opinions or beliefs of the prospective client are unacceptable to him or to any section of the public…”

In 1999 the then-Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, said in UK parliament:

“The ‘cab rank’ rule is one of the glories of the Bar. It underscores that every member of the Bar is obliged, without fear or favour, to represent clients who offer themselves, regardless of how unpopular they may be in the community or elsewhere.”

The fast-track court to hear the alleged gang-rape of 16 December, which resulted in domestic protests and has also attracted major international media attention, will be inaugurated at Saket at 530pm today.

The Supreme Court today accepted a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an IAS officer that all rape cases should be tried by a fast-track court.

Update (via @linuxlala): In a 2010 case of a bar association resolving not to defend a number of policemen (AS Mohammed Rafi vs State Of Tamilnadu Rep) Justice Markandey Katju said:

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.

Photo by Ramesh Lalwani

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