Law and Behold

via http://newstodaynet.com/newsindex.php?id=13182%20&%20section=13 published on December 16, 2008

Legal defense for Ajmal Amir Qasab, the lone terrorist, who was captured live during the Mumbai terror attack has become an issue of concern and created an emotional, fanatical and interesting debate throughout the nation. Being one of the hardcore terrorists, who took Mumbai by a shocker attack on 26 November, he simply shot at and killed three police officers in front of the public and was finally captured alive.

 

In the first week of December, the Bombay Metropolitan Magistrate Court’s Bar Association, saying that none of its thousand and odd members would defend any of the terrorists involved in Mumbai terror attack, passed a resolution to that effect unanimously. While Advocate Dinesh Mota, senior member of the Legal Aid Panel refused to take up the defense of Qasab despite the Maharashtra government asking him, another Senior Advocate Ashok Sarogi, who volunteered to defend Qasab, backed out due to the public outrage.

 

But then, a few experienced lawyers are of the opinion that no Bar Association can pass such a resolution and the case of defending an accused must be left to the individual discretion of the lawyers. In the meantime, as another criminal lawyer Mukesh Deshmuk decided to defend Qasab, a group of Shiv Sena activists attacked his house and protested against his decision. But the lawyer is determined to take up the case by saying that he is not doing anything illegal or unconstitutional. He has said that every accused has the ‘right’ to legal representation.

 

Eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani has said that lawyers cannot refuse to take the case, as it would go against the Constitution. Other top lawyers are also of the opinion that India’s liberal constitutional democracy allows Qasab the right of a fair trial. They aver that this right of the individual to defend himself is an essential part of our democracy. But those who are against providing legal defense feel that Qasab being a foreigner (Pakistani Citizen) cannot enjoy the provisions of the Indian Constitution. Many others feel that even if he ‘can’, he ‘must not be’ allowed to, taking into consideration the magnitude of the crime.

 

India has been a victim of many terror attacks in the past, but even then the accused have been getting legal aids from Indian lawyers. As long as the perpetrators are believed to be local fundamentalist elements, there was no objection for their legal defense, baring two incidents in Bhiwandi in 2002 and Kanpur in 2007. As far as Mumbai attack is concerned, very strong sentiments are attached with it, which kept the shocked nation on tenterhooks for almost 60 hours non-stop. Even the lawyers, who want to defend Qasab may feel ethical restraints in going ahead with their objective.

 

Another important point to note here is that Pakistan, against whom investigative agencies have irrefutable evidence for facilitating terror, has denied its involvement and totally disowned Qasab and other dead terrorists. On the contrary, Qasab has written to Pakistan High Commission for legal aid. But again, as long as Pakistan disowns him, he cannot be given consular access. There is also another view that unless Qasab is allowed to defend his case, the complete truth about the conspiracy and attack would not come out. The argument that, at least in order to collect all the details pertaining to the conspiracy, conspirators, their involvement, local help and the final attack, Qasab could be provided with legal aid could not be brushed aside. But again, can’t these details be collected without providing him the legal aid?

 

There are also chances for the so-called human right activists and the liberals and pseudo-secularists to come to his aid and a few politicians of the minority appeasement order would try to throw their weight around, as already indicated by the dissenting voices of Lalu Yadav and Paswan over the Law Minister’s proposal for a tough anti-terror law. India has already experienced such a sickening scenario in the case of dreaded terrorist Afzal Guru. Also the irresponsible section of the media would go out of the way and help those activists and politicians.

 

What ever said and done, the crime committed by Qasab is a crime against the nation and the whole nation has seen the crime while being committed. He is an enemy, a citizen of a perennially hostile country. He must be produced in the Court of Law, charge-sheeted and given the maximum punishment. How we go about it is the challenge.

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