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'Lawyers' boycott can help accused'

india Updated: Jan 02, 2013 23:20 IST
Harish V Nair

Amid appeals by various bar associations in the city to lawyers to not represent the six men accused of gangraping a 23-year-old woman in court, legal experts said the decision will only benefit the accused.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a trial in which an accused does not get an opportunity to properly defend himself can be declared invalid from the outset.

Arun Rathi, vice-president of the bar association of the Saket court where the trial will take place, told HT, "The Saket Bar Association with 2,500 members stands by its resolution not to represent the accused."

Delhi Bar Association member Rajiv Khosla said no advocate in Delhi will represent the accused.

"We discussed the issue with office-bearers of various bar associations and it has been decided that no lawyer from the Capital will appear for the accused," said Khosla.

Bar Council of Delhi chairman RS Goswami said, "We have asked lawyers not to represent the accused. On the other hand, our members have volunteered to assist the prosecution."

However, former Delhi High Court judge RS Sodhi said, "A trial in which accused does not get opportunity to defend himself can be later declared void ab-initio (invalid from the outset)."

Sodhi had sentenced Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder accused Santosh Singh to death in 2007 and went on to defend Nithari serial murder accused Moninder Singh Pandher as a lawyer after his retirement.

"The constitution clearly states that every accused has a right to be defended. In such cases of boycott, generally courts provide the accused a legal aid lawyer," said constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap

Shiv Sainiks had attacked an advocate who was willing to represent Mumbai terror attack accused Ajmal Kasab.

Following a bar boycott, the court appointed a legal aid lawyer for him. Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru has been asking for clemency on the grounds that he was deprived of proper legal aid.

Noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who defended Indira Gandhi's killers and was criticised for representing model Jessica Lall murder accused Manu Sharma, said, "Such decisions by the bar is an affront on Constitutional values and right of an accused howsoever heinous the crime he has committed."