Right to be Defended

The Hubli Bar Association had announced that it was withdrawing its February resolution against defending 4 students accused of sedition.

Constitutional Provisions

The Constitution provides the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his/ her choice as one of the fundamental rights according to article 22(1). Article 14 gives equality before the law and equal protection of the law. Article 39A of DPSP provides for free legal aid for ensuring equal opportunity to secure justice.

Professional Ethics of Lawyers

The professional ethics of lawyers are given under the Rules on Professional Standards of the Bar Council of India. It is a part of the Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette which is to be followed by legal practitioners under the Advocates Act. The rules allow for a lawyer refusing, in special circumstances, to accept a brief. This special circumstance does not include prohibition from defending an accused by threatening removal of his/her membership from the bar association.

Previous Resolutions

Over the years, various bar associations have passed resolutions to not defend certain accused individuals:

  • Resolution against representing Ajmal Kasab of the 2008 terror attack.
  • Resolution against defending the accused of 2012 gang rape case.
  • Hyderabad Bar Association’s resolution against defending the accused of the rape and murder of a veterinary doctor, etc.

Supreme Court on Such Resolutions

The Supreme Court had previously ruled that such resolutions are ‘against all norms of the Constitution, the statute and professional ethics’. In 2010, A S Mohammed Rafi v State of TN case, the Madras HC ruled that the lawyers’ resolution against representing any police personnel as ‘unprofessional’. During the appeal, Supreme Court ruled that such resolutions are illegal and against the traditions of the bar.

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