Indian lawyers refuse to defend gang-rape accused

By AFP
Published: January 2, 2013
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Hearings expected to begin on Thursday; police to formally present a 1,000-page charge sheet against six-person gang. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Hearings expected to begin on Thursday; police to formally present a 1,000-page charge sheet against six-person gang. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

NEW DELHI: Lawyers at an Indian court hearing the case of a fatal gang-rape which has shocked the nation said Wednesday they would refuse to defend the men accused of taking part in the assault and murder.

Hearings are expected to begin on Thursday at the Saket district court in south New Delhi, where police will formally present a 1,000-page charge sheet against the six-person gang.

“We have decided that no lawyer will stand up to defend the rape accused as it would be immoral to defend the case,” Sanjay Kumar, a lawyer and a member of the Saket District Bar Council, told AFP.

Kumar said the 2,500 advocates registered at the court have decided to “stay away” to ensure “speedy justice”, meaning the government would have to appoint lawyers for the defendants.

Another lawyer at the court confirmed the boycott to AFP.

Five men are expected to face charges including rape, murder and kidnapping in the Saket court, with the prosecutor likely to seek the death sentence.

A sixth suspect is believed to be 17 years old, meaning he would be tried in a juveniles’ court, but police are conducting bone tests to determine his age.

The brutality and horrific nature of the attack on a 23-year-old has led to protests in the capital and elsewhere over the widespread abuse of women and sex crime in India.

The rape victim died at the weekend after 13-day struggle to survive injuries so grievous that part of her intestines had to be removed.

She was repeatedly raped and violated with an iron bar on a bus on December 16 before being thrown from the moving vehicle at the end of a 40-minute ordeal.

In 2008, Indian lawyers also refused to defend a gunman who took part in attacks on Mumbai which killed 166 people, leaving him with a government-appointed lawyer. He was executed in November last year.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Queen
    Jan 2, 2013 - 4:47PM

    Good, Hope to see some quick justice

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  • John B
    Jan 2, 2013 - 5:32PM

    This is what happens when a tragedy is politicized. Justice to the victim is best served in an open court when the lawyers altercate the cases where the full truth could come forward. By refusing to represent the accused, one may never know if indeed the accused are the (only) perpetrators and in how many other incidences they have been involved.

    It is easier for the police to close the case by presenting confessions and grab anyone and present as rapists while the real ones could still be out there.

    The moral and ethical duty of justice to the victim and to the society is to punish the guilty party. For that to happen, one should give the opportunity to the accused to make sure he/ they present their cases and the prosecutor counteract the claim of innocence by incontrovertible evidence.

    If not, police will be tempted to close the cases by presenting their own set of predetermined and preselected accused from their portfolio of criminals while the real ones go on their rampage as usual.

    I doubt this is the only incident that the accused are involved. The very quick vigilante justice of the present case without taking time for thorough investigation of their prior actions is injustice to the victim.

    Can the Delhi police tell the public that this is their first rape crime Anyone with common sense knows that these rascals could have likely done this / or attempted this before. There could be a gang of them roaming.

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  • Yoghurt lover
    Jan 2, 2013 - 5:47PM

    I wonder if the same lawyers refuse to defend the likes of Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja, Kanimozhi etc.

    How do you know when a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.

    What a bunch a hypocritical pieces of junk.

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  • Yoghurt lover
    Jan 2, 2013 - 6:31PM

    @B John

    What do you expect from lawyers? The most unscrupulous creatures, most dishonest, bigots created by god, are lawyers.

    Have you noticed, how nobody likes lawyers and usually lawyers ending up marrying other lawyers…

    We have seen these bigots defending corrupt millionaires. We have seen them defend terrorists. We have also seen these hooligans outside Bangalore high court, beating up the police. We have also seen these despicable vermin garlanding a murderer in Pakistan.

    They have defended hundreds of murderers, rape accused. Now, seeing the mood of the country, they want to go against their oath.

    Also, what’s the result of this? The government will appoint a high profile lawyer, who will charge a fortune of tax payer’s money.

    Did the lawyers who got lakhs of rupees as their fee from the government for defending Ajmal Kasab give it to charity?

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  • John B
    Jan 2, 2013 - 9:11PM

    @Yoghurt lover:
    While I share your pain of seeing the unscrupulousness of certain community of lawyers, the defense lawyers do play an important part in carrying out the justice and they act as a buffer between the courts and police.

    In their zeal to defend their clients, the defense lawyers bring out the holes in police theory and evidences, regardless of their personal belief in their clients. This ensures that the police do a thorough job of investigating the crime and bring all guilty parties to the court. Without the defense lawyers, we will be living in a totalitarian police state where anyone could be accused of crime and whatever the police says will be the truth. And a system without supervision will easily succumb to corruption and a petty criminal will be nabbed for a high profile crime case and the real one will be hiding behind the police system.

    By refusing to defend (or plead for the defendants) in this present case, the defense lawyers of Delhi are encouraging inadvertently a poor investigation by the police, and force the police not to look beyond the accused and the present case and encourage the police and the justice system to close this present case and move on to the next.

    I do not suggest that Delhi police is bringing in misrepresented accused in this case, but the stand of the defense lawyers association to pick and choose the cases to defend will invariably encourage the police to play the system according to the public opinion in the future, if it is not already happening in this case.

    Contrary to the misconceived notion, the defense lawyers play an important part in bringing out the truth of the crime and ensure the guilty parties are punished and they make sure the police do their job honestly and efficiently.

    Who is going to ensure that you and I are not falsely accused by police either deliberately or by misidentification or through forced confessions?

    We all understand that this present crime is heinous but how many other rapists are out there in Delhi and did the police catch all the perpetrators, including their own, in other cases?

    What happened to the previously convicted rapists- were they quietly let go off by the police or do they still rot in jail?

    What if tomorrow the government or the police intimidate the lawyers against defending say, a falsely accused Kashmiri Muslim rapist because the case is too politically sensitive and create an unrest? Won’t it be an injustice at two levels, one by false accusation and second by letting go of true rapist?

    Where is the justice for victim in this?

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  • Syed
    Jan 2, 2013 - 11:43PM

    I just want them to go through the same pain they inflicted on that poor girl. I can’t imagine how people can be so barbaric. I wish the police is making them suffer as much as possible.

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  • Cynical
    Jan 3, 2013 - 3:02AM

    @John B

    Great post. Now that even the lawyers have joined the moral brigade, cynicism seems to have reached its nadir.
    Nice to see you back here on ET.
    A belated happy new year.

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  • Jai
    Jan 4, 2013 - 12:31PM

    They should be debarred. An adversarial system of justice cannot work without providing the accused a right to defence. It’s not the lawyers job to make judgments. Or maybe they’re just afraid for their lives putting out a public statement considering the outrage in India. The court will appoint a defence lawyer anyway.

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