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Duty -versus- ConscienceViews: 231
Dec 15, 2008 6:42 am Duty -versus- Conscience

Vijay Nair
IBNLive 15/12/2008

"Mumbai: Lawyers in Mumbai are refusing to take on the case of the lone surviving terrorist from last month's attacks in India's financial hub, citing moral and ethical concerns, legal officials said on Friday.

The decision creates a problem for the Maharashtra government as police continue their investigation into the attacks, in which 179 people were killed. Dinesh Mota, a member of the state's legal aid cell that provides free counsel, was asked to defend the accused, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, after Mumbai's Bar Association decided that its members would not take on the case.

Mota also refused on Thursday, saying his conscience would not allow him to take on the case. "It was the first time in my 24 years as an advocate that I faced this dilemma because I knew what the risk was to me—I was shivering," Mota said.

Mota, who risks losing his licence to practise law over the decision, said he prayed to Lord Ganesha to give him the courage to turn down the request to defend Kasab. He then called his wife and his mother to tell them of his decision, and they too agreed.

"I did not want to even go to work the next day, but my wife said I should, so I went and told the cell I won't take the case because it is not morally right," he said. The cell accepted his decision, he said, and he went immediately to the Ganesha temple to give thanks.

Last week, the city's Bar Council passed a resolution saying its more than 1,000 members would not represent Kasab or other defendants related to the November 26-29 attacks. "It was a unanimous decision because everyone felt it is our duty as citizens of this country to not defend terrorists," said council president Rohini Wagh.

It was the first time the council had passed such a resolution, she said, after making a distinction between a criminal act and an act of terror. Mumbai police, who on Thursday were granted fresh custody of the accused for another two weeks, said they had approached the court to provide legal counsel to Kasab, and the process of appointing a legal representative will start in a day or two.

While the state will ensure Kasab is legally represented, the police will "leave no stone unturned to make sure this case is fool-proof and strong", said Rakesh Maria, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), who is the lead investigator in the case."

Vijay Nair, Partner
KNM & Partners, Law Offices

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