Nithari killers entitled to legal aid: Sabharwal
He says an accused cannot be denied a fair trial just because the charges levelled against him are serious, reports Satya Prakash.Updated: Jan 13, 2007 23:04 IST
Maintaining that an accused is presumed to be innocent unless proved guilty, outgoing Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal on Saturday disapproved of the Noida Bar Association’s decision not to defend the accused in the Nithari killings case.
"Why do you presume that the accused have already been convicted. An accused is presumed to be innocent unless he is convicted," he said.
Talking to reporters on the eve of his retirement, Justice Sabharwal emphasised that the accused persons were entitled to legal assistance to defend them.
“An accused cannot be denied a fair trial and legal assistance just because the charges against him are serious in nature... howsoever heinous is the crime, the accused is entitled to reasonable opportunity to defend himself," he said appealing to lawyers to keep their emotions under control.
"Whether it is Nithari or the Jammu and Kashmir sex scandal or any other case, I cannot think as a man of law that an accused should be denied legal assistance or Bar should pass a resolution not to defend him," Justice Sabharwal said.
However, Gautambuddhnagar (Noida) Bar Association Secretary Manoj Bhati justified the decision not to defend the Nithari killings accused. “Law and the Constitution are for human beings and not for devils who killed innocent children of poor people,” Bhati told HT.
He further said that Noida lawyers have decided to represent the parents of the killed children and therefore they could not represent the accused.
The CJI sought to emphasise that convictions and acquittals are decided in accordance with law based on the material placed on record and not on the basis of the media reports.
"Whether it is Nithari, Jessica Lall case or in the past the Indira Gandhi assassination case, the lawyers have appeared and defended the accused," he said.
Last year, the SC had transferred the Srinagar sex scandal to Chandigarh after the local bar passed a resolution not to defend the accused in the case.
On the issue of death penalty, he said he was personally against it but so long as the provision was there, it should be awarded in appropriate cases. He was responding to a question about the apex court rejecting the curative petition of Parliament attack case convict Mohammad Afzal on Friday.
He said it was for the government to take a decision on the issue but as long as it will remain in the statute and if a case comes under the category of "rarest of rare", the court has no option but to award capital punishment.
First Published: Jan 13, 2007 20:08 IST