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Monday, June 15, 2015

India’s Daughter

For Jyoti Singh…Lest we forget...

One of the unsurprising mandatory courses offered at hopefully all law schools is Professional Ethics. Members of the public would be greatly pleased that in fact lawyers and advocates in training are indeed taught how to be courteous, how to keep clients reasonably informed as well as how to charge reasonable fees, manage separate client accounts as well as how to maintain other positive duties to clients such as good faith, confidentiality and competence among others.

Professional ethics also requires that an advocate cannot refuse a brief, provided that the client is willing to pay fees, and that the advocate is not otherwise engaged. There are obviously some exceptions to this general rule but it is indeed a bit  troubling to think that I may be ethically and professionally required to represent suspected terrorists, rapists or mass murderers as a right minded lawyer and that my personal beliefs, feelings or dispositions would be largely irrelevant!

This dread was further heightened last Friday during a professional ethics class when the course instructor required us to watch ‘India’s Daughter’, a 52 Minute BBC Production on the infamous Delhi gang rape that occurred in 2012. For the purpose of our class, it was material to listen, observe, learn and critic both the prosecution and defence lawyers stances. So gruesome were the facts and circumstances of this case that the Indian Bar Association had previously passed a resolution that no one should defend the accused rapists and minor in the matter contrary to the cab-rank rule that most commonwealth jurisdictions currently uphold.

Despite the legalese and rationale of watching this documentary in this particular class setting, I couldn’t help but notice how a given socialization process impacts how a particular group of  people reason and analyze situations both directly and indirectly. For instance, some of the comments given by both counsels in relation to the matter seemed to suggest that the victim was partly or entirely to blame for the heinous crime that ultimately resulted in her death!

Having never been to India before, it was glaringly evident from the contributors of the documentary that India has a very rich culture and history to which part, most of its inhabitants are proud of, but it is also chiefly repressive and discriminative towards girls and women who are considered second-class citizen. Most disturbing were averments made by the convicts; that a decent Indian girl should not be out alone without the company of a male relative or out alone at 8:00 p.m. entirely or even worse that she should not fight when being violated in the manner that she was!

 It was bitter sweet to see the huge outcry and multiple public protests that resulted from this incident. Indians of all ages, creed and gender took to the street demanding for women’s rights and the need to be afforded better protection. Most importantly they were also fighting for that Jyoti Singh gets the justice she deserves. It was indeed humbling and unifying to watch and it reaffirms the notion that history and hopefully socialization processes can be changed during such trying times.

Even if the law affirms that every person however wicked, depraved, vile, degenerate, perverted, loathsome, vicious or repulsive has a right to be defended in a court of law, every victim including Indian young lasses also have rights, duties and freedoms that must be respected and upheld in life and in death!

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