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Sham Jhoothmalani(?) aur Justiceca Hal(?) (Jessica lall)

November 12, 2006

I would like to say at the outset that whatever is written here is only in the context of Jessica lall’s case. One sparrow does not make a summer and therefore an entire life should not be judged by a single act. I would rather not name the concerned lawyer(CL) here though it is obvious whom I am referring to. Though I have been an admirer of his for the bold stands he has taken at times and his professional skills, in his latest avataar, an ordinary citizen is perhaps better off by not referring to him directly. I am not making a sweeping statement but only talking for this particular issue.

This has reference to articles on this issue written by prominent journalists Vir Sanghvi (Editor of Hindustan Times) and Barkha Dutt( NDTV anchor). While calling the CL a friend and lauding some of his past achievements, both have questioned his stand on the Jessica lall murder case. They have tried to convey that while some his past “Houdini” acts- rescuing people like Kehar singh (accused in Indira Gandhi murder case) and Professor Geelani(accused in the parliament attack case) were admirable extrications, Manu sharma who is the accused in Jessica lall simply does not deserve such a release from perhaps the finest criminal lawyer in the country. Here are the links to the articles:-

Barkha Dutt’s article- Ram and Manusmriti

Vir Sanghvi’s article -Lone ranger in white shoes

Another interesting article is by Namita Bhandare which states that even the CL’s family is unhappy with this decision-

Namita Bhandare-Devil’s advocate

Some views of Mr Vir Sanghvi are worth repeating:-

“Some weeks ago, in context of the Mohammad Afzal case, I wrote, on this page, that ordinary people believe that if a rich and powerful man commits a murder in full public view in the middle of Connaught Place , a smart lawyer shall still get him off- so unfair is our legal system. I did not know then that Ram would actually accept this brief and try and get Manu Sharma, a rich and powerful man accused of committing murder in full public view, off.”

“But my words now seem eerily prescient. Lawyers tell me that Ram is conducting Manu’s defense so “brilliantly” that he may well get him off. He has already found a sex angle and has told us that the real murderer was a Sikh. Perhaps, in a week or so, he will tell us that Manu was not even there and that Jessica was killed by Navjot Singh Sidhu/Rabbi Shergill/Manmohan Singh.(all of them)”

After all these years, saying that a Sikh killed Jessica is almost like saying that Kashmir is in the south and Kanyakumari in the North of India or should we say that the CL works in the film industry and Hema Malini is fighting criminal cases. It cannot even pass off as a sardar joke. The CL claims that he is not taking any fees for this- wonder whether that qualifies as a joke since Mr Sanghvi has also stated that this time the person whom the CL is defending is not somebody who is weak and poor and therefore defenceless.

At another place, Mr Sanghvi has stated that the tag of “smuggler’s lawyer” never harmed the CL despite his having defended an assortment of characters who maybe regarded as “murderers, smugglers, gang bosses and desi Mafiosi”. Ironical- One would be normally be inclined to think that a lawyer was supposed to protect the Rams from the Ravans if not for anything else than for the fact that he happens to be his namesake as also the fact that he happens to be “Maryadapurshottam”

In my lage raho Munnabhai post, I had given Gandhiji’s thoughts on a lawyer’s profession which are worth repeating:-

” As a student, I heard that a lawyer’s profession is a liar’s profession. That did not influence me. I had no intention of earning either position or money by lying.” “I have never resorted to untruth in my profession and since a large part of my legal practice was in the interest of public work, I charged nothing beyond out of the box expenses and that too I met myself”. “The true function of a lawyer is to unite parties driven asunder”.

Gandhiji was practical enough to admit though that “Truthfulness in the practice of a profession cannot cure it of the fundamental defect that vitiates it”

One cannot expect anybody to be as truthful as Gandhi was but does one have to go to the other extreme? Even while writing the Munnabhai post, I knew that Gandhigiri was a passing fad. This was revealed last week when the Times of India had headlines of “Gandhiriri gives way go Goondagiri” when traders went on a rampage in Delhi against the imposition of Ceilings of unauthorised properties. In practical life, things happen more in confirmity with the other movie “Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara” which conveys that Indians remember him more is letter than in spirit and that too during his death and birth anniversaries. From another perspective,while Munna(bhai) was cute, can the same be said of Manu? At least here, should we not follow the apostle of truth, our “father of the nation”?

Coimng back to the professional context, I had mentioned in the post how the so called professionals(in all fields) do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing which is so well expressed by one of the all time great songs of Hindi Cinema. In this context (CL), if the guardians of law behave like this, what is left for the common man? The song is worth mentioning again here:-

In the BMW case, when a rich man’s son got away scott free after bunping off several people with his car, it was mentioned that the practical situation could be described as “show me the man and I will show you the law”. The way things are happening, law seems to have become like a five-star hotel, only for the rich people. Mr Sanghvi has also mentioned the same case in the article and stated how the “justice was available only to those who can pay for it”.. My fahter-in-law is a non practicing lawyer and a jain who would not even harm a fly. Even he has expressed serious reservations about the law time and again.

One day after writing the post, it has come in the Times of India that in the context of implementing the Ceiling, the Supreme court said “”Those who govern should know how important the rule of law is. If there is no rule of law, there will be nothing left in this country”. This is obviously true not only for this country but all countries but should it also not all apply to all parties and not merely restricted to “Those who govern”. What matters eventually is the motives with which the law is implemented but not law-per se. I recently read on some blog how the domestic violence law could be subverted by women with dubious motives.

Mr Sanghvi has used the expressions “deeply flawed justice system” and “ how little faith people have in our legal system” apart from “unfair legal system” mentioned earlier. The common man is so scared of the delay in justice that the judicial system is seen as a remedy worse than the disease. Considering that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Jinnah were alll lawyers, they can be proud of the fact that lawyers had a pivotal role in making India Independent. Isn’t it a strange irony that in Independent India, the ordinary man feels stiffled by the law and is almost under siege by the judicial system? If this situation continues to prevail, people might start taking the law in their own hands the way it was shown in the movie “Rang De Basanti”.

One should focus on the brighter side- the Priyadarshini Mattoo case where there are hopes of justice after the recent verdict in the victim’s favor. There again, the day after the verdict, both the Lall and the katara families(fighting similar cases) while welcoming the judgment said that it was late. They feel the pinch because it is they who are fighting and have to go to the courts on a day to day basis. I am sure that the murderers in those cases too must be thinking of approaching the CL.

These cases have come under the limelight because of media and public pressure but there must be countless others languishing in courts because of delays of various kinds. I can remember annother all time popular song from yesteryear’s super comedy “Chalti ka naam gaadi” “ Oh Mattoo, tera tau hua lekin mera kya hoga?” . In the original song, it is not Mattoo but Manu and if the CL succeeds in the Jessica lall case, we can revert to the original song with a slight variation “ Oh Manu, tera to hua lekin justice ka kya hoga?”

Though both Barkha Dutt and Mr Sanghvi have written very well and the media as a whole has played a very constructive role in these cases(even if for their TRPs), one wonders wether the role of the media is that of a watchdog or a bloodhound? Everytime a prominent case emerges, there is a lot of noise about delay in cases but nobody does any follow up and takes the issue to its logical conclusion- why the delay?, what can be done to expedite justice and what is the latest situation? If everytime a Jesica lall has to happen to arouse the consciousness about delay in cases, all the noise about it whether by the mainstream media or the bloggers is nothing but a lot of intellectual masturbation. Even in the Lall case, why did the media wait for seven years and for the verdict to go against the victims? Why can’t the justice system be made faster as in the other great democracy- the United States.? Even in Tennis and Cricket, the follow through is given its due importance. Practical corporate management is impossible without “follow-up”. Why not get to the root of the problem and effect a lasting change?

Both the Journalists have described the CL as the “lone ranger” against injustice. In reality, it is the common man who is the “lone ranger” against the flawed judicial system. Barkha says “ Much is being made of whether media trials have substituted or, at the very least, weakened the judicial process. I disagree. “ She is absolutely right. In a country where the politicians are perceived as corrupt and the judicial system inefficient, only the media can save the common man’s skin . The common man in this context is more like that famous bespectacled character from R.K.Laxman’s cartoons- looking baffled but genuinely confused and helpless.

As for the CL, since he happens to enjoy the stature(more or less) of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in his field, it’s worth repeating what Tendulkar said in an interview once “ No matter how big a player is, nobody can be bigger than the game ”. In legal lingo “ Be you ever so high, the law is above you” –here, I am talking from a laywer’s perspective . Purely by coincidence, I happen to be reading “Why pride matters more than money” by Katzenbach. Though I am only half way throgh the book, it seems to be all about sustained motivation in the long run coming from pride in one’s work and profession- it states that though money may entice somebody to join an organization, in the long run, it is only meaningful work and pride in performance in one’s work that motivates an individual towards individual and group excellence . The CL already enjoys an enviable reputation in his field and hopefully, this is only an aberration. Barkha has mentioned in her article that the CL does not have to do all this for money anymore and behave like a typical professional(all maynot be like that) which reminded me of an artilce I had written some years ago- Is money the god and profession the religion ? .

Mr Sanghvi has concluded the article by stating that the next time the CL claims to use his legal prowess for the national good to help the weak and powerless, all of India will laugh in his face. One should hope that it does not come to that. There are many of the view that as it is, we already have plenty of entertainment from some politicians.

It would also not be out of place to mention here that some artists have spent a lifetime of poverty despite being very good in their respective fields- Hindi novelist Premchand and Hockey wizard Dhyanchand among them. Others like the famous painter Vincent Vangoh and Shakespeare became posthumously famous. Therefore, Professional prominence should never be taken for granted. People in the wrong profession have described it as “Spiritual suicide” and “lifetime imprisonment”. Therefore, one should have the highest reverence for one’s profession as it sustains both emotionally and financially for a majority of waking hours.

{ Nobody is disputing anybody’s right to hire a lawyer or any lawyer’s right to take up a case. This is just an expression of concern(which I think the journalists too are doing) if a smart lawyer is misusing his smartness. It is also an appeal to his conscience)

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32 comments

  1. If Jethmalani fails in his bid to prove Manu Sharma’s innocence, I hope courts impose some punishment on him for wasting country’s time and resources.

    But if he does manage to save this guy, I have to say that the concept of trial by public-media may be worth a look. Did they all jump to conclusions w/o solid proof?

    And about rich murderers walking tall and free, look no further than Salman Khan.


  2. Good Post but I am not agreeing with both Vir and Bharkha statement, why the hell they are talking about Jetmalani. In simple word he is lawyer well Great lawyer and his profession is to fight the cases for his own clients no matter who are the clients. What Media has tried and trying is portraying Manu Sharma a convicted criminal, my question how he is convicted criminal he is accused in the case only and its not his fault its fault of our weak judicial system and corrupt police department who cant even find a single proper proof of this case to convict him and others or should we they had destroyed the proof because of involvement of high political figures. Why no one question the owner of restaurant who has been involved in destroying the evidence? Till few months ago she was free and even not been charged for any thing.

    Why the hell media wants trial to go according to their finding and suggestions. We are free and democratic country we got our own constitutions which we must follow or else face the consequences and chaos.

    Till Manu sharma is accused he is eligible to get best lawyer to defend him and he got all right to defend himself. If Jetmalani took his case he is doing all right with in his own interest and profession. What Media is trying to do don’t give these accused any chance of defending themselves as we have found out by our own reporters that Manu Sharma and company are main culprits so should be hanged. What Joke…

    Free Media doesn’t mean that any accused can be portrays as criminal. Innocents till proven guilty.

    If police and investigation agencies have done their job properly and collected all the required proof to convict accused then its doesn’t matter who is representing him, Truth speak more loudly than Lies.


  3. Or is the lawyer upto something different here? Hmm…


  4. Hi. just blogrolled you 🙂


  5. Money and power can make any murderer free in countries like India and Sri Lanka. It’s an unfair and defective system.

    Keshi.


  6. Initially even I didn’t agree with Ram Jethmalani and him taking over the trial. But then I read The Innocent Man by Grisham and I’m glad we have peeople like Jethmalani in our system. I’d rather have a good lawyer defending an accused than letting him be punished without a fair trial. There is a possibility, even if remote, that Manu Sharma is innocent, I cannot presume guilt because the media claims he is guilty. What if he is innocent, would I want him to be hanged? Would you want him to die? Let the system do its work. Let Jethmalani do his job.


  7. Yes I agree, we appreciate it only when we are affected. Let me ask you this, what if you were accused of the murder? The “proof” that our police system has collected is stacked against you. Wouldn’t you want a trial where you are innocent until proven guilty and not the other way round? Wouldn’t you want someone like Ram Jethmalani fighting for you?

    I think the only reason we are shocked by Jethmalani’s actions are because the trial judge made a statement saying he knew Manu was the murderer but he still had to let him go. And so now he is not worthy of defence against murder charge? Our constitution ensures every person gets proper representation by a lawyer to defend him. Our judicial system will fall apart when lawyers refuse to take up cases because they believe a person is guilty. Jessica Lall’s sister is ok with Jethmalani taking over the case and even she wants a free and fair trial, both for her sister and for Manu. Then why are we having so much trouble to accept the fact that Jethmalani is defending Manu?
    Yes, we will appreciate it only when it affects us.


  8. And you asked me if I honestly believe in innocent until proven guilty. Well, Yes, I do. We should not selectively pick and choose cases where we want that to apply and when it suits us, just forget about it. If thats how our criminal justice system worked then god save us! Manu Sharma or you or me, the rule of law has to apply. Its a different question that some people are able to subvert it through money and power. Its a different debate altogether


  9. If you believe in the concept of law, you have to believe that everyone is entitled to a fair defence and chance. For this purpose, they are entitled to the best defence possible.
    Mr. CL is one of the best brains possible, but if the prosecutors and the police bring in strong evidence, then there is little doubt that there will be a judgement against the accused.
    To vilify a lawyer for selecting a client is wrong. After all, in the past, there have been several cases where the accused have been totally convicted by the media and ‘public opinion’, but they have finally been proved innocent, and they did have lawyers defending them.


  10. @Ekawaaz, Roshan and Ashish- I don’t think you have read the articles of the concerned journalists. Nobody disputes anybody’s right to a fair trial. However if the wrongdoer can influence the judgement because of his influence or wealth, the judgement does not have any meaning. Yesterday it came in the papers that Mattoo’s close friend was threatened. THe judge in that case had himself said that the evidence had been tempered with. In such cases if they can temper with evidence why can’t the media make a noise about the same. Don’t forget that the concerned lawyer is described as a smuggler’s lawyer by Mr Sanghvi.
    @silkboard- Isn’t it strange that Salman shall be convicted for killing animals and others can roam free despite killing human beings.
    @slim- Something totally different it seems
    @Adnan- Thanks
    @Keshi- Right you are


  11. The concerned Lawyer is not a good doer where definition of “Good” varies for person to person. He is a good lawyer and let him be that. He is still in right side of law. If his claims are wrong then he is not avoiding any debate as per law in court. In my opinion, it’s fair. Good competition brings out the best. Those who can’t compete and are lazy, bribe eating, pan chewing government attorney, for them its bad, very bad.
    As for the trial by media and public, it’s impractical for a nation with such a vast population. Opinions of individuals as per nature are always divided. If a mob decides the verdict without any law, it’s a sure way to anarchy.


  12. Inspite of the media noises, the Polls conducted by media themselves – say the same thing – as the comments on this post are saying largely – Ram Jethmalani is within his rights to defend the man.

    Meanwhile – what very few people are talking of – is how to avoid such a situation altogether. This can be done ONLY if we have Solid, Honest, Efficient Police and Investigation System. If they are free and fair – hard evidence can be used against the accused – as is the practice everywhere in the world. Let no man be judged based on rhetoric – it can come back and bite anyone.

    We need the Police to do better investigations – else stand up and say – sorry we messed up – or say – no evidence found of the guilt – my lord.


  13. “@silkboard- Isn’t it strange that Salman shall be convicted for killing animals and others can roam free despite killing human beings.”

    Hiren, whats up? Have you too forgotten that Mr Khan (rather his car) ran over a few sleeping men and then fled the scene? Mr Khan is a walking example of how big money (= good lawyers) can drag the cases longer than accused’s life.


  14. Honestly I never liked this guy Jethmalani. Thinks himself to be above the law. This will be a test for the Indian Judiciary system. The supposedly best lawyer in the country trying to defend a cold blooded murderer.


  15. Please give me your view/opinion/comments.

    Do you feel that Jessica Lall’s case is going to fall victim to the wits of a lawyer’s arguments? Please give me your opinion: (yes/no) by clicking on the link below.

    Yes – if you think the case is emerging to be a battle of wits and confrontational skills of a lawyer.
    No – if you think the defense lawyer is doing his job judiciously in order to arrive at the truth of the case.

    http://www.indiademocracy.com/issue/user/issue.jsp?issueid=iss20061111160833

    While many of us were looking at Jessica Lall’s case setting a new trend and faith in the judicial system; the recent arguments made by Mr.Jethmalani have narrowed the hope. What the future holds for this case, time would tell – will it be lost to maneuver and manipulation once again or eventually result in providing justice!!!


  16. Please give me your view/opinion/comments.

    Do you feel that Jessica Lall’s case is going to fall victim to the wits of a lawyer’s arguments? Please give me your opinion: (yes/no) by clicking on the link below.

    Yes – if you think the case is emerging to be a battle of wits and confrontational skills of a lawyer.
    No – if you think the defense lawyer is doing his job judiciously in order to arrive at the truth of the case.

    http://www.indiademocracy.com/issue/user/issue.jsp?issueid=iss20061111160833

    While many of us were looking at Jessica Lall’s case setting a new trend and faith in the judicial system; the recent arguments made by Mr.Jethmalani have narrowed the hope. What the future holds for this case, time would tell – will it be lost to maneuver and manipulation once again or eventually result in providing justice!!!

    Mehak Malhotra


  17. It is more of an issue with the Indian judicial system if a lawyer is able to sway the process with anything other than his arguments. Influence / money power should count as nothing in cases. To be realistic though, we all know that it counts, but I think that we are evolving into a society where people are hopefully realizing that raising their voices can propel things to be fairer.


  18. I recognize Namita Bhandare as the writer of a novel I enjoyed ‘Paro…’. Her write up on this issue appears balanced, or so I feel. This is a test of the judiciary to see if big names sway the ispensing of justice.


  19. nameste hiren
    loved the post its so well analysed and the blog…
    came through blogger friends
    happy blogging
    cheers
    jhaji.


  20. @Frodo-Everyone is entitled to a lawyer. All I am saying it that if a smart lawyer is misusing his smartness for subversion of justice, the media is justifying in making the right noises. In the feedback to Mr Sanghvi’s article many people have said that.
    @Apun ka Desh-You are right about the police force but the witnesses should also not go back.
    @Silkboard- I totally agree. That’s the whole point. What is the point in justice then?
    @Vinod Iyer- Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore him
    @Mehak Malthotra- I voted yes
    @Ashish-You are right. At least the media and the people should express their misgivings if a smart lawyer is misusing his smartness.
    @Jhaji- Thanks. Looking forward to your blog


  21. I would suggest reduce the length of your posts 😀
    I love reading your posts but the length is always a pulling down force.


  22. I’m not sure why were are so up in arms about RJ taking the case. He is a criminal lawyer and he has every right to defend his client.

    We should be up in arms if he presents false evidence or undertakes unethical actions to defame the victim and help his client. That will be a travesty.

    We should be even more vocal if the judge in the case falls for the mud-slinging and is not able to see through the attempt to cast aspersions on the victim’s character.

    RJ is not the guilty party here. He is doing his job. Manu Sharma is guilty and it is the judge’s duty to see to it that justice is served.


  23. Lawyers job is to interpret the law to the client’s advantage. And, in case like this truth is not a fact, but an opinion that carries conviction.


  24. @Hiren

    I had read it article, noise they raising is leading to media trial, which is not correct in any sense. Yeah its is true big people always try to influence the justice system, but its doesnt mean that Media people will take the judgement in their own hands. Like you said

    “Don’t forget that the concerned lawyer is described as a smuggler’s lawyer by Mr Sanghvi” Do you think this is correct way to describe JM? He is very respectfull lawyer. All my point is media can expose the case but if they try to influence the case then it is wrong.


  25. I am not a big fan of this lawyer. His character was revealed during the Lok Sabha elections. I hope he loses the case.


  26. First as the matter of rule, in common law a person is presumed to be innocent until he is held guilty.

    Secondly, it is not the lawyers who are acquitting the person from the offence. But it is the prosecution/police who fails (intentionally or not) in their cases. Because mostly in criminal trials accused remains silent (i.e. he does not have to prove anything), but prosecution has to prove the allegations. And if the allegations are not proved the court has no option but to give benefit of doubt to the accused. Mind here, he is not acquitted as widel mis-conecpt, but given benefit of doubts.

    After the mis-carriage of law in the best bakery case, wherein realtime melodrama was performed at every level. In this case even the star witness Zahira turned hositle and refused to identify any accused and so did other 40+ witnesses and therefore the court had no option but to let the accused run loose. Therfore, our courts are not courts-of-justice ,as we believe , but courts-of-evidence. If no evidence no conviction, simple as that.

    And it is only few cases like jesica, best bakery etc. come into the light of media and known to the public. But at ground level there are thousands of cases which are tried in same manners, and jesica case is just magnified version of these mis-carriage of justice happening at micro level.

    I feel helpless and believe mere talking and shouting of media and other people will not change the system.

    I am optimistic by nature, but when I see and hear anything relating to Indian politiicans, government etc. I do not see any changes at least in my lifespan.(baat niklegi to har bat pe rona ayega…)

    CL is just taking advantage of loopholes left open by govenment/prosecution as every lawyers takes, just he is loud mouth :). I am blaming government because being aware of present rotted (criminal judicial system and repeatedly pointed out by SC for many years but nobody is interested to change the crime sceneraios of India.


  27. Nicely written post giving a fairly good idea of the whole issue to someone like me who was completely oblivious of it.
    I don’t want to comment (and I don’t know) what/who is right and wrond but Interpreting the articles of Indian Law is a difficult task and this is where the sharp brains can tweak it the way they want, for better or for worse. And if the opposition leaves open even a few holes, it won’t take time before the entire garment is torn out.


  28. “Igonrance of law is not good defence.”

    This is statement is based on the paramaount principle of that laws should be so explicit so every ordinray prudent person can understand the provisions of laws.

    However, it is not the case in the Indian legal system. Every new enactment , amendment are bent upon to make life harder of ordinary citizen.


  29. http://www.freewebs.com/livestreams123


  30. but you have to admit, these trends in bollywood are still actively in use


  31. The culprits of Jesica Lal murdar have been found guilty. It took almost 7 years before the case was finally solved.

    This case is significant, mainly because it has many twists and turns in it.

    1. Initially, the court had aquitted manu sharma, as he was a member of an influential family having political contacts.

    2. The media once again created ahue and cry over this matter, due to which this case was reopened again. This time, people supported it.

    3. Ram Jethmalani, an old man fretted for life tried some foolish heroics claiming that manu sharma was innocent, a sikh person killed her.

    4. The other pathetic thing was the politics of Shayan Munshi and Beena Ramani. Both turned hostile in court.
    Lets wait for wednesday.


  32. Oh wait. Yes, I have. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have it in me right now to type it all out again. Besides, it was just ramblings anyway. You didn’t want to hear me go on and on about this, right?



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