Saket Bar Association's resolution that none of its lawyers will defend the accused in the Delhi gang-rape case is against all traditions of the bar and professional ethics, Press Council of India (PCI) chairperson Justice Markandey Katju said today.
In a post on his blog, Katju cited the court ruling in a case (A S Mohammed Rafi vs State of Tamil Nadu) that "every person, however wicked, depraved, or repulsive he may be regarded by society has a right to be defended in a court of
law, and correspondingly it is the duty of the lawyer to defend him."
Revolutionaries in Bengal during the British rule were defended by lawyers, Indian communists were defended in the Meerut conspiracy case, Razakars of Hyderabad were defended, Sheikh Abdullah and his co-accused were defended and so were the alleged assassins of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, Katju wrote in his post.
Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab had also been defended in the court, he pointed.
No Indian lawyer of repute has ever shirked responsibility on the ground that it will make him unpopular or that it is personally dangerous for him to do so. It was in this great tradition that eminent Bombay High Court lawyer Bhulabhai Desai defended the accused in the INA trials in the Red Fort at Delhi," the former Supreme Court judge said.
Katju said the Constitution says that "No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed,as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice".
Professional ethics require that a lawyer cannot refuse a brief, provided a client is willing to pay his fee, and the lawyer is not otherwise engaged, he said.
The PCI Chairman asked lawyers to ignore and defy such resolutions if they want democracy and rule of law to be upheld in the country.