Archive for the ‘Lawyers’ Category

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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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