Everyone has the right to representation

Apparently this concept is too hard for the Indian press to understand. As background, there’s quite a famous case in progress. The court of public opinion has convicted the accused. That’s fine — happens all the time.

But apparently they are having a hard time understanding why a leading lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, is defending the accused. Mr. Jethmalani, who is, if anything, brilliant, takes the reporter, Sagarika Ghosh, to the cleaners on her lack of understanding between public opinion and legal fact. The basic issue is not whether Manu Sharma is guilty or not guilty. The basic issue is that being convicted in the court of public opinion does not mean that he is guilty according to the law.

Sagarika Ghosh can’t grasp that distinction. It is ludicrous how she keeps asking him “why are you defending him?” – because everyone has the right to a fair trial and everyone had the right to representation. Even the guilty ones. Only by ensuring that the guilty have fair representation can you ensure that the innocent will get fair representation.

I love this quote —

That is my courage. I have moral courage, and who are the citizens of India? You are not the repositories of the citizens of India. I decide according to my conscience who to defend and please understand and tell those people who are asking this question that there is a statutory rule of the Bar Council of India that a lawyer who refuses to defend a person on the ground that people believe him to be guilty is himself guilty of professional misconduct.

Watch the video here. [Hat tip on video and quote: Confused]

While I personally might feel that Manu Sharma is guilty as sin, is using his political connections and must be convicted, I will also defend his right to the best counsel available. Why is that hard to understand?

The on thing I completely disagree with him on is that the press has overstepped their ground – India has too many instances where politicans get away with, well…, murder. So I think the press has done a great job of exposing this story and all it’s gory details. But, he’s entitled to his opinion. I hope Jethmalani doesn’t give himself a coronary with all the screaming.