Friday, May 6, 2011

Why lawyers should not be politicians....Jethmalani is an embarrassment to the BJP....

Ram Jethmalani is now representing Kanimozhi in the 2G corruption case. His party, the BJP, is calling the 2G case the biggest scam even seen in India. Jethmalani himself has been on TV several times taking the government’s pants off on this same case. He’s accused the DMK, Raja....everyone; most times even without having any evidence against them. He’s relied on “circumstantial” evidence to convince TV viewers that the accused are indeed guilty. Now he’s using other arguments to convince the Supreme Court that one of the prime accused is in fact innocent.

To be sure, a lawyer enjoys the absolute freedom of defending anyone that he/she may need his/her services. In fact, a lawyer takes the plea that it’s not for him to decide whether the accused is guilty or not; it’s for the judge to do that. His only job is to highlight the legal and evidentiary loopholes in the prosecution’s arguments against the defendant. Society at large understands this role lawyers play and hence continues to hold senior lawyers in high esteem. Lawyers make huge piles of money.....running literally into hundreds of crores. They charge 5-15 lacs per “appearance” in court; even if that appearance is for just 10 minutes. Or even if the hearing did not take place during the appearance. This kind of conduct would be called unethical, extortionary and immoral in almost all other businesses.....charging this much money solely for time, even if the hearing did not take place. In contrast, investment bankers.....another bunch of people who make a pile for striking a deal.....charge only a small fee if the proposed deal does not close. The charge for their “time” is much lesser if there is a failure. Not so with lawyers. They charge the same obnoxious rates whether the hearing took place or not; whether they failed or succeeded. Given their importance to companies in litigation, lawyers have always gotten away with such conduct. All this may be unethical, but it’s not considered illegal. Sometimes however, they even do the illegal. Lawyers may represent one party in one case and the opposite party in another case.....even if the subject matter is identical or similar. This, I am told, is illegal....and the aggrieved party can appeal to the Bar Council of India....which can put a restraint on the lawyer. But the point here is that lawyers have no qualms in accepting briefs from anyone. Even opposing parties. All this is condoned by our society........partly because the ordinary civil society doesn’t know of this conduct. And largely also because those who do know of this don’t want to challenge the lawyers, lest they may themselves want their services one day!

But when lawyers become MPs and politicians, the game changes totally. The job of the MP is the most difficult in the world. Anyone can accuse a politician without having any proof in the hand. It does not matter if the court eventually throws out the case.....usually, this would take many many years. In the meanwhile, irreparable damage would be done to the image of politicians. This is why politicians don’t bother much about pending cases. This is why a pending case cannot be a reason to debar politicians from contesting elections. The point I am making is that politicians are subject to the highest levels of ethics..... and are considered guilty unless proven innocent. And even if proven innocent by the courts, they stay guilty in the eyes of the people. No court has found Rajiv Gandhi guilty in the Bofors case....yet, in the eyes of the public (and as repeatedly exploited by the opposition), he remains guilty. In a scenario like this, it’s totally unacceptable that lawyers become politicians and bring their unethical practice into politics.

If politics is all about being “above board”, then lawyers fail the test totally. How can Ram Jethmalani possibly balance the twin charges he that the DMK and Raja and Kalaigner TV are all party to the 2G scam.....and the other that his client, the “owner” of Kalaigner TV is innocent? His argument that she was not operating the company on a daily basis is a very cowardly attempt to dump the charges on others. Everyone knows that in closely held Indian companies, nothing moves without the promoter’s specific OK. But that’s not the point. It would be ok if another lawyer used this plea and defended Kanimozhi. The point is that Ram Jethmalani.....a BJP aggressive bully who argues against the same matter on TV.....cannot defend Kani in this blatantly abusive manner.

Jethmalani has repeatedly put his party in embarrassing situations in the past also. He took up the brief for Jessica Lal’s murder accused and shocked the entire nation and his party. He took up the brief for the accused in the Parliament attack case. In fact, Ram Jethmalani is a media personality....even more than the astute lawyer that he is. Why does his party not throw him out? Surely they can have other lawyers in their party who can articulate their views and take on the ruling party? I suspect that the reason why they continue to tolerate him is that when he trains his guns on the Congress, he can be devastating. For a party like the BJP, for whom the truth doesn’t matter, and politics is played at the lowest and most depraved level, this is reason enough to continue with Jethmalani. Ethics has never been a pre-requisite for being a BJP member.

In a similar manner, just look at who all Shanti Bhushan has defended in the recent past. In 1994, he defended 2 accused in the Mumbai blasts case. In 2001, he defended Shaukat Hussein Guru in the attack on the Indian Parliament. He has also defended former PM HD DeveGowda in a corruption case involving land dealings. Nothing wrong with all this.....except that when he has entered public life, all this doesn’t agree with the public at large. He is the wrong rep to be writing the anti-corruption bill, no matter what his legal credentials.

The real truth is that lawyers like Ram Jethmalani have made a mockery out of the political system we have. For them, it’s all about opportunism. It’s alright if they speak in two different voices at two different places. It’s not “double speak” when they do is when politicians do it. It’s my view that lawyers should not become politicians. Or if they do, then they should stop taking cases which embarrass their parties....and the entire political system that exists. In public life, ethics matter.....

1 comment:

  1. This one I don't agree with at all. Any person can belong to any party - and it is upto that party to keep that person - and this is typically a match in the overall ideology. So I can continue with my job while being part of a party. And I don't see any ethical issue about continuing with my job even if there is another opinion about the subject matter of my job voiced by the party. it is important to keep the party and personal life separate.