November 03, 2006

And he gets a lawyer

From all I've read about the case for some years now, I am pretty damned sure: Manu Sharma killed Jessica Lall.

But my being damned sure is some distance short of a conviction in a court of law. My being damned sure makes no difference to Manu Sharma's right to a trial and legal representation.

So I am actually glad that one of this country's best known lawyers, Ram Jethmalani, has decided to represent Sharma. Glad, because it is a reaffirmation of the only way justice can mean anything: when even a man accused of an outrageous crime, even a man who nearly got away scot free, even a man much of the world detests -- when even such a man gets a fair trial. When a lawyer ignores public sentiment to take on such a case.

So I am unable to make sense of what a criminal lawyer called Kamini Jaiswal, a family friend of Jethmalani, told the Hindustan Times: "In a matter of this nature where public opinion is against Manu, Jethmalani should not have taken up the case."

(Similar sentiments, sometimes extrapolated into threats, found voice after the July train blasts in Bombay. Luckily, some brave lawyers did come forward, despite the threats, to defend the accused).

Public opinion can have nothing to do with Jethmalani's decision to take the case. Jaiswal should have known better. It's good Jethmalani knew better.

I don't want Manu Sharma, if he's guilty as I believe he is, to escape punishment. But I do want Manu Sharma to have a lawyer defend him in a reasonable trial. And so whether public opinion is against Manu or not, that he has found a lawyer is, by itself, a tribute to justice. Let it flower.


Anonymous said...

The cynic in me would say that the Manu Sharmas, OJ Simpsons of this world rarely have problems getting high profile representation, for the oppressed of this world of course it's a different story..

Dr. Ashok Dhamija said...

Well, should we say Manu Sharma has got a "high-profile" lawyer or that Jethmalani has got a "high-profile" client!

And look, Jethmalani is already at work in his usual style, asking for a change of Bench...! Good way of trying to search for a convenient Bench. If you succeed in change of Bench, your job is half done already (the next Bench also feels intimidated); and if you fail, you can always say in the Supreme Court that "justice" was not done by a biased Bench.

But, in either case, you get more share of the ever-increasing media coverage.

Kartik said...

Actually I kind of drew parallels with this and the other famous pronouncement of the past few weeks, that of the Supreme Court in the Mohd. Afzal case- where the bench in upholding capital punishment said (something like)...

... The collective conscience of a nation must be satisfied ...

I don't know- if he's guilty, send him to the gallows by all means, but please don't play the role of society's conscience's interpreter. Justice to be fair all around...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, while in principle I agree with Dilip, in practice I agree with lod.

I have another problem with the whole idea of lawyers: they are not concerned with right or wrong. If Ram Jethmalani is convinced that Manu Sharma is innocent, he should of course defend him vigorously. But what if Jethmalani (who has closer access to Manu Sharma than any of us) is convinced that Sharma is guilty? He should still defend him vigorously, ideally based on the evidence, but often distorting facts and smearing opponents in practice. I'm not sure he can walk out of the case even if he wants to.

And being one of our top lawyers, he may win even if he is personally convinced Sharma is guilty. That's what bothers many people.

All that said, he still has every right to take up the case and Manu Sharma has every right to good legal representation. The trouble is public prosecutors often aren't nearly as good.

Anonymous said...

Jethmalani is right on media trial of Manu Sharma. Here is my take on it:

wise donkey said...

i agree with the principle, but isnt it time, the media focused on the legal system, than just high profile cases?

the lawyer shouldnt play the role of the judge, and simply defend the client.

if he gets away with it, it would mean lets focus more on the system, which allowed it, not on the lawyer who defended him.

Anonymous said...

This has me in a very 'analog' and undecided mode but generally agree with Dilip.

1. Hope this trial will contribute to building up the justice system and investigation process such that the evidence presented in cases is ROUTINELY high-quality and Jethmalani- proof. As DDS said, let justice flower.

2.Hope we dont get into a situation by which it can be insinuated that somebody didnt get a fair show if they werent represented by a Jethmalani calibre of lawyer.


Anonymous said...

Do you realise that your being damn sure that Manu Sharma killed Jessica Lall is just because you have been folowing media on this case. Now take a deep breath and think just because media pronounces someone guilty should be enough to hang him.
I am of course not suggesting that Manu Sharma is not. Let courts decide that. I know we can't count on courts. but can we count on media? Even if we think that medis is to be believed on this case is it enough to set a precedent?
Here's my take on the Here's my take on the Manu/jessica/jethmalani episode:

Anonymous said...

If you liked the discussion here, you may like even better, this discussion on the Ram Jethmalani issue at:

Commentspace on the Acorn is rapidly becoming my favorite for some of the best discussions I have seen.


Anonymous said...

Why you foolish guys/gals single out a young man like Manu Sharma?
Do you have the guts to take on MP Shahabuddin or Ansari ? They killed hundreds of people inlcuding police officials and still remain honorary member of your Indian Parliament(Indian Criminal House is a more realistic label).

You frustrated public are hopelessly weak in a demon has gone crazy democracy like the one existing in India now. You are animal-like that you don't see the real state of the affairs in India while targeting a single intelligent young man who might/might not had killed a bitch selling her body to the highest bidder.
You all must be eliminated by a heavily armed force of military units and your women must be raped before your own eyes.

Manu is like an elder brother to me. Your sick public opinion is causing us seriously think about your extermination in every sense of the word.