Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lawyers are Liars ... Myth !

There is something that most people do not know. A lawyer is bound to take up any brief that is entrusted to him, regardless of his personal feelings about the truth of his case. It is Law, part of the ethics of the Profession, akin to the dictum that a doctor cannot refuse to treat a patient who comes to him in distress. He is not entitled to refuse any brief except on certain specified reasons, including lack of knowledge of that field of law, ill-health, conflict of interest, etc. So when a person accused of a crime seeks to engage a lawyer, he is duty-bound to defend him, even if he feels his client is guilty as hell. His job is to find out the facts of the case which entitle his client to the least punishment prescribed under law. It is his job – to ensure that his client gets a fair hearing.

Imagine a situation where a person has no right to defend himself. The Police arrest him, the Judge finds him guilty and sentences him without even giving him a chance to say anything in his defense. Even if he is allowed to present his case, his lack of knowledge about the law handicaps him in presenting his case in the best light. That is where a lawyer’s services are necessary. If not, we could as well go back to the Law of the Jungle. Eye for an Eye and all that.

A large number of innocents go to jail even with an abundance of lawyers. It may be true that a large number of guilty escape (mainly because of badly drafted laws), but isn’t that what the basic principle is all about? Who will give back the wrongfully incarcerated his lost years, his lost family, his lost world?

Lawyers are blamed for delaying the course of Justice. They are responsible for preventing the Courts from doing their work, seeking adjournments, obstructing the course of justice. They are responsible for the backlog, the huge pile of files pending before all Courts of the land.

Has anyone given a thought to these aspects – the number of judges, the infrastructure provided to the Judiciary and the fund allocation to it? This sector has to be the most neglected of all the Constitutional Institutions since Independence. How much of the funds generated by the Judiciary (through court fees and fines) is pumped back to it? How many Courts are provided with computers, internet facilities, fax machines, even photocopiers? How good is the Judge-Population Ratio in comparison with other countries? How many vacancies for judges are filled? Do judges have adequate and competent staff?

Lawyers do seek adjournments, it is true. This is solely for the benefit of their clients. Their opponents have their own lawyers who are there to prevent such adjournments, so the game evens out. Most judges are wise enough to recognize a fraudulent adjournment request and discourage it. It is not very easy to get adjournments. In fact, it is an art. So to blame lawyers alone for the huge backlog of cases is absurd. There are various other factors contributing to the syndrome. You can’t blame the judge too. He has a lot of cases before him, cases in which both parties are ready. Better to leave contentious issues aside and deal with those that are ripe for trial.

Pump more funds into the Judiciary. Improve its infrastructure. Appoint more judges. It will work wonders. But it will never happen. There are too many forces with a vested interest in keeping the Judiciary in the boondocks.

Most people know the saying “Justice delayed is Justice denied”. How many know the other part of the adage “Justice hurried is Justice buried”? Some cases just can’t be put on fast track. To arrive at the truth, a lot of burrowing may be necessary.

As in any field, there may be bad apples, who give the profession a bad name. I am not saying that all lawyers are above reproach or holier-than-thou. Lawyers, like all human beings, are out to make a living. The means each individual adopts depends on his own morals and sense of values.

But lawyers don’t lie. They just present their clients’ version of the truth. It is for the Courts to decide whether that version is correct or not.

Remember, nothing is black or white. Everything is a shade of grey.

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