Are we being unfair?
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I decided to write this post after a discussion I had the other day with a friend of mine. My friend was distressed at the fact that a lot of criminals these days are getting off the hook in India because their defense attorneys have become experts at exploiting some loophole or technicality of the law. He was very agitated against the lawyers and wanted the bar or some other body to take stringent action against these criminal law attorneys.
Although I understood that his outburst was an emotional one and not a rational one, it did however made me give the issue more thought than I did earlier. Are these criminal defense attorneys really to blame here? As far as I am concerned, they are only doing their job. It is part of their job to provide the best possible legal counsel to the accused. The same way it is the job of the prosecution attorneys to present the tightest possible case against the accused. They are not there to judge the accused. They are there to provide information about evidences, motives and scenarios to the decision maker to reach as objective a conclusion as possible.
So should we blame the lawyers for getting known criminals off the hook? If we say that they are wrong to do so, then we are basically asking the lawyers not to take the case of anyone he thinks to be guilty. This would imply that anyone who is accused of a crime must then first prove his innocence in front of a lawyer before he can even get someone to represent him in court. Now if he could prove his innocence that easily he wouldn’t have become the accused in the first place.
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The point I am trying to make here is that every individual has a right to defend his name and freedom in a court of law, in a civilized society. This is irrespective of how heinous the crime he has committed or whether he is guilty or not. Once a defense attorney takes up a case it is his duty to defend him to the best of his ability because the life of the accused from then on is in that attorney’s hands. It is up to the court to decide whether or not he is guilty and to give the appropriate punishment. If there is a loophole in the law then the law should be changed so that the holes are adequately plugged. Not by denying the accused any chance to defend his innocence in court. If we do that then the court procedure would degenerate into a sham.
The police and the prosecution are not always fair while dealing with criminal cases. It is the knowledge that a good criminal defense lawyer would go through every nook and corner of the case that forces them to thoroughly investigate a case before producing it before the court. They know that they will be hung out to dry by the defense attorneys if they slip up somewhere.
As for the unethical and manipulative practices followed, it is not just the defense attorneys who indulge in such activities. The prosecution too does this because ultimately their efficiency is also judged by the number of cases they have won or the number of convictions they have secured. Lawyers from both sided gain only when they win a case. If this were not the case then we wouldn’t be hearing of wrongful convictions either.
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As in any profession you get both kinds among attorneys as well. There are good attorneys to whom their own egos and fame matter little when compared to the joy of seeing justice done. Sometimes they might help a criminal get out through the cracks of the law. But more importantly they help to ensure that the innocent is not made to carry the stigma of a conviction because then it is injustice that is served and not justice.