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Ethical Role Of Prosecutor And Defense Lawyer In Criminal Proceedings

In the adversarial system of criminal procedure in India, the role and status of lawyers are considered vital in deciding the nation's administration of criminal justice. In the criminal proceedings, the accused is presumed to be innocent, and the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. It is the responsibility of lawyers to produce the evidence and cross examine the witnesses which seeks to establishes the truth of the guilt before the neutral judge.

The truth of the guilt emerges from the respective version of the facts and selective representation of evidence by the lawyers. In legal counselling and advocacy in trial, lawyers are duty bound to protect the interest of their client at all costs before the courts. However, their duty is subject to overriding duty of interest of justice, public interests and professional ethics.

In the case of Sheonandan Paswan v. State of Bihar[1], the court view that in representing the state, the prosecutor must be independent, impartial and ought to do the trial without any influence of the victim/complainant, government or accused. It is the duty of prosecutor to assist the trial with fairness and prevent the misuse of the court process. The role of prosecutor as a minister of justice is interpreted as not merely to secure conviction but to seek ingrained sense of dignity and integrity to the court in achieving justice.[2]

In the case of Shiv Kumar v. Hukam Chand[3], the court emphasized that while conducting prosecution it is the duty to be fair in not convicting the innocent accused. If an accused is entitled to any legitimate benefit during trial the Prosecutor should not conceal it and bring it to the notice of the court.

With respect to the defense counsel in the case of A.S Mohammed Rafi v. State of Tamil Naidu,[4] the court observed that every person, however wicked, depraved, perverted, loathsome or vicious regarded by the society, he has a right to defend in court of law and correspondingly it is duty of the lawyer to defend him with the attitude that this client is innocent until the prosecution establishes the guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Thus, it is duty of counsel to be the last resort for the accused and save him from arbitrary and oppressive action. In Kali Ram v. State of Himachal Pradesh,[5] the Court observed that it is the duty of the prosecutor and defence counsel as well to maintain the presumption of innocence by refraining from pre-judging the outcome of the trial.

Therefore, this adversarial criminal system requires the reconciliation of the public interest i.e., the wrongdoers are punished and prevent from committing more crime, and private interest i.e., preventing wrongful conviction and protecting personal life and liberty of the accused.

  1. Sheonandan Paswan v. State of Bihar, (1983) 1 SCC 438
  2. Jitendra Kumar@ Ajju v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2000 (53) DRJ 707
  3. (1999) 7 SCC 467
  4. 2011 1 SCC 688
  5. 1973 AIR 2773

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