For more than 200 years, lawyers or advocates have played a significant role
in establishing the framework of Indian society. Lawyers have contributed to the
freedom movement, framing the Indian constitution, legislative members,
teachers, social reformers, and bureaucrats, among other professions.
The right to be represented by a counsel has been in place in England for about
three centuries. In ancient Rome, great lawyers such as Cicero, Scaevola,
Crassus, and others defended the accused. Indeed, as the human race's
civilization advanced, that right became clearer and stronger, and it was held
and asserted with more vigor. Even Nazi war criminals who were responsible for
the deaths of millions of people were given legal representation during the
According to professional ethics, a lawyer cannot refuse a brief if the client
is willing to pay his fee and the lawyer is not otherwise occupied. No Bar
Association can pass a resolution stating that none of its members will
represent a certain defendant, regardless of whether he is charged with a
heinous crime. Article 22(1) of the Constitution mandates that no one should be
held in custody without first being informed of the reason for his detention and
that he should be given the opportunity to speak with and be represented by a
lawyer of his choice.
Bar Council of India:
Any brief before the Courts or Tribunals, or before any other authorities in or
before which an advocate wishes to practise must be accepted at a fee consistent
with his status at the Bar and the nature of the case, according to the
'Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette' of the Rules framed by the Bar
Council of India. Due to unusual circumstances, an advocate may reject to accept
a particular brief.
When Thomas Paine was imprisoned and prosecuted for treason in England in 1792
for publishing his renowned pamphlet "The Rights of Man" in support of the
French Revolution, he was represented by eminent lawyer Thomas Erskine
(1750-1823). At the time, Erskine was the Prince of Wales' Attorney General, and
he had been told that accepting the brief would result in his dismissal.
American import on the legal ethics:
Mr. Justice George Sutherland of the United States Supreme Court underlined the
importance of the right to be heard by counsel in Powell vs. Alabama 287 US 45
Indian lawyers have followed in the footsteps of this illustrious past. During
British occupation, our great lawyers defended Bengal revolutionaries, Indian
communists in the Meerut conspiracy case, the Razakars of Hyderabad, Sheikh
Abdulah, and his co-accused, and several of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi's
alleged assassins. The case of Dr. Binayak Sen was recently defended. No
reputable Indian lawyer has ever refused to execute his duty because it would
make him unpopular or personally dangerous. In this great heritage, the eminent
Bombay High Court lawyer Bhulabhai Desai represented the accused in the INA
trials in the Red Fort in Delhi.
The role of the lawyer is crucial in the administration of justice. The advocate
is bound by professional ethics, which he must uphold to a high standard. His
responsibilities include the court, his own client, the opposing party, and
maintaining the opposing counsel's respect. Because he belongs to society's
known intellectual class and is a member of the noble profession, where higher
demands are placed on him, what is appropriate for others in society may not be
proper for him to perform.
Advocates are valued in today's culture. People have a high level of trust in
the judiciary and legal system, and a lawyer is often the first person they
contact. Litigants invest their faith in a lawyer and trust them with protected
information. They had to sign their names everywhere a lawyer asked them to. An
advocate's responsibility is to protect his clients' rights and ensure that
justice is administered fairly and impartially.
In the task of administering justice, the duties of Judges and attorneys are
complimentary, and practising lawyers as a class are an essential part of the
system, assisting Judges in the performance of their function of obtaining
justice for litigants before the Courts. In other words, practising lawyers, who
are basically partners in the process of administering justice with the Judges,
have a vested interest in the preservation of a brave and independent judiciary
to ensure that litigants obtain fair and fearless justice.
Following our great nation's tradition, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has repeatedly
decided that an accused's right to be represented by a lawyer is a
constitutional right that cannot be taken away. The Hon'ble Supreme Court even
ruled that the criminal appeal could not be dismissed due to the appellants' or
their counsel's failure to appear. The Court must either adjourn the hearing of
the appeal or evaluate the merits of the appeal and pass final orders.
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