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Defending our justice system

Mobocracy will win if Anjali Waghmare is scared away from representing Ajmal Kasab.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2009 23:03 IST
Hindustan Times

There is one reason, and one reason alone, why 26/11 terror suspect Ajmal Kasab must be properly — and forcefully — represented in court: to establish the fact that India is not a banana republic where the lynch mob decides the fate of criminals, even if they happen to be accused of the most heinous crimes. No one in his right mind is talking about being contrarian here to the extent of saying that Kasab is innocent. But there is a method by which an accused needs to be found guilty and subsequently sentenced. Therein lies the lodestone of jurisprudence in a civilised State. Step off this trajectory, and we either have the rule of a few men (an oligarchy of the kind that India witnessed during the Emergency) or the rule of the proverbial villagers with pitchforks and torches (an atavistic sense of law as vengeance that is subjective and can be equally dangerous).

Which is why it is imperative that immediate and strong steps are taken to see that threats like those against Anjali Waghmare, who was appointed on Monday as Kasab’s defence counsel, are nipped in the bud. Ms Waghmare had agreed to represent Kasab in an atmosphere where to defend an accused terrorist is being considered, at best, anti-national, at worst, treacherous. This is preposterous. The Shiv Sena activists who intimidated Ms Waghmare after she took up her brief were not only breaking the law, but were also making it difficult for India to convince the world — or indeed itself — that there is a rule of the law in this land and that the accused here get a fair trial.

Ms Waghmare’s fears are understandable. It is brave of her to have accepted the brief, considering that even liberal Indians are maintaining a comfortable silence about the need to defend Kasab and his co-accused. Nine of the protesting Shiv Sainiks have been arrested. If more such agitations crop up, demanding that she withdraw from the case, these ‘protestors’ should also be hauled up and put behind bars. Ms Waghmare has sought a day to decide whether she will go ahead and represent Kasab or not. For the sake of justice in India and for India’s reputation as a democracy where the kangaroo court is an unwanted entity, Ms Waghmare should be given adequate support to carry out her professional duties as a lawyer.

If the law is sturdy enough in this country, surely justice will not be shortchanged to prove the guilt of a terrorist.