In din, 2 lawyers break ranks, one says love fighting ‘impossible cases’
Breaking ranks with lawyers who refused to represent the men arrested for the gangrape and torture of a 23-year-old woman who died later in a Singapore hospital, advocates Manoharlal Sharma and Vinod Kumar Anand volunteered to represent the accused, infuriating their colleagues and the large crowd that had assembled at the Saket courthouse.
The bar associations had asked city lawyers not to represent the five accused, stating that legal aid counsels provided by the state should represent them to complete the formalities of a trial.
But Manoharlal Sharma says he enjoys “fighting impossible cases”. And for a fair trial, the legal system should “also ensure that an experienced and committed lawyer is handling the case”.
While he welcomes the legal aid system, Sharma points to the work pressure on legal aid counsels. “This matter needs thorough investigation and application of mind. Legal aid counsels are often overworked and are young lawyers,” says Sharma who claims that “any airtight case is usually a manipulated case”.
With over 30 years of legal experience in criminal, civil and constitutional law, Sharma is no stranger to controversial cases. In early 2012, he was admonished for “wasting the court’s time” and fined Rs 50,000 for filing a PIL which suggested conflict of interest by the then Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia in the Vodafone tax case. Last September, Sharma also filed a PIL challenging the Centre’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail.
On Monday, Sharma showed up at the court during the hearing of the gangrape case. He later told Newsline he had met Ram Singh, one of the accused at Tihar Jail, and will represent “at least two” accused in the case.
Advocate Vinod Kumar Anand, who has over 27 years of experience as a criminal law lawyer, also appeared before the court on Monday with an application to be allowed to “volunteer as amicus curiae” in the matter.
Asked about the hostile reaction of other lawyers and the general public to his suggestion, Anand said fair trial required that the accused be given full opportunity to present their case.
“I understand the sentiments of the public and the bar but the question is that we are duty-bound under the process of law. Everyone has the right to be represented,” Anand said. He specialises in defending persons accused of heinous crimes and boasts of “high rate of acquittals” in the cases he handles.
After the court told him to “approach the accused directly”, Anand said he plans to meet the five accused on Tuesday morning and, if needed, volunteer his services.