IN MANY HINDI FILMS IT IS difficult to notice the difference in pronunciation of ‘lawyer’ and ‘liar’. When you talk of judges (Nov.3, 2016 post ‘Judging Judges‘) lawyers cannot be far from your thoughts.
Judges come from the community of lawyers. A popular Hindi serial of the last generation was titled ‘Sas bhi kabhi bahu thi’ (the mother-in-law too was a daughter-in-law once). Similarly judges too were lawyers once.While judges
are among the most respectable and revered members of the society, even lawyers
would admit that the ‘reputation’ they enjoy does not match that of judges. Lawyer jokes outnumber the Rajnikant or Sardar jokes in India and can fill many pages.
Derisive jokes about lawyers in the USA are too many ( On a tombstone: “Here lies John, a lawyer and an honest man”. Visitor: “Oh, two people buried in a single grave!”). How many owners would rent out their houses to lawyers? The high cost of medicine in the US is attributed to ‘malpractice’ cases inspired by ‘ambulance-chaser’ lawyers, against which doctors have to insure. Class action case abound in US courts.
A few years ago I ran into a former trainee of mine who after dismal failure in journalism became a lawyer. “Even if a three year-old is raped in front of many, I can get the accused acquitted,” he boasted. Being known only for getting adjournments, he can still be seen, I understand, sitting under a tree in the court compound, helping people file affidavits or doing what he is best at — getting adjournments.
Courts are blamed for the pile-up of pending cases. Has any honest study been done on how many court adjournments are really justified and the lawyers’ tole in getting them?
Lawyers’ agitations holding Bangalore to ransom are too recent to be forgotten. Lawyers stoned, burnt vehicles and threw urine packets at police vans because police allegedly booked a couple of lawyers for violating law. Lawyers attacked students and journalists in a court compound in Delhi.There are many similar cases of lawyers’ action outside courts.
They obviously would not, like our politicians, “let the law take its own course” even though they know how the subverted system is or how it can be manipulated. They had no faith in “due process of law.”
All this does NOT mean lawyers are a bunch of crooks, some of whom become judges. Similar (or worse) things can be written about journalists….or doctors.. or engineers. The less said about the political class the better.
The new Indian government’s bid to modify the system of judges’ appointment became controversial. In US too it ran into trouble over the credentials of some appointees, though the choice is political there. When Indira Gandhi wanted a ‘committed judiciary’ in the ’70s the Left silently supported her while the Right protested. So justice too is political.
Many politicians come from the legal profession. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that lawyers cannot refuse to appear for terrorists, rapists or murderers, if the fees was paid and they had the time Such refusal would be “a violation of the Constitution, Bar Council norms and tenets of the Bhagavad Gita”, it held.
Some lawyer-politicians defend clients they oppose politically. Some Congress leaders, obviously out of sheer desperation (at sitting on the opposition benches) ridiculed the BJP leaders who took up the cases of terrorists in courts.Thanks to the controversy, in Gujarat, two brothers arrested for links with ISIS terrorists are not getting lawyers to defend them. More about it later
The Congress leaders forget that the late V.K. Krishna Menon, an avowed Leftist, argued cases for Birlas, the symbol of capitalism. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan founder K. M. Munshi had won many divorce cases on mere technicalities. It is also conveniently forgotten who Abhishek Sanghvi, Kapil Sibal and other famous Congressmen defended in courts.
Defending the indefensible, according to the judicial system India borrowed (like everything else) from the British, is neither wrong nor unethical. What is unethical is trying to corrupt the judges or distorting justice. Or cases like promising a judge’s post to a lady lawyer in return for sexual favours, as exposed in a sting operation.
Selective amnesia is one of the symptoms of the disease called politics.