Hyderabad: With the suspension of advocate Aljo K. Joseph by the youth wing of the Congress for defending Christian Michel, the middleman who has been extradited from the UAE for his role in the multimillion Agusta Westland VVIP chopper deal, lawyers are raising questions about their statutory rights in choosing their clients.
This is not the first time this has happened. Sonali Jaitely, daughter of finance minister Arun Jaitely was criticised for accepting the brief to defend diamantaire Nirav Modi, and Bansuri Swaraj, the daughter of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, was criticised for conflict of interest when she accepted the brief from Lalit Modi, an accused in the IPL scam.
While suspending Aljo K. Joseph, who is head of the legal cell of the Youth Congress, the party issu-ed a statement that read: ‘Aljo K. Joseph appeared in his personal capacity. He did not consult the Youth Congress before appearing in the case.’
Always quick to criticise the Congress, BJP leader and senior advocate Subramanian Swamy questioned the Congress for appointing a lawyer to defend Christian Michel.
It was the Congress that had criticised Bansuri Swaraj for appearing am-ong a battery of lawyers in the legal row over Lalit Modi’s travel documents between April 2012 and August 2014 in the Delhi High Court.
In Sonali Jaitley’s case, she was a member of the law firm of Mr Jaitley and Bakshi and accepted the brief from Mehul Choksi in December 2017 and then returned the `24 lakh retainership fee after the Punjab National Bank scam surfaced.
An advocate has every right to accept a brief or reject it, and cannot be questioned for doing so even if their political affiliations or relationships seem to present a conflict of interest.
There are many instan-ces of senior lawyers from the Congress and BJP appearing in controversial cases after stepping down from their political posts.
Sarasani Satyam Reddy, senior counsel of the Supreme Court, says that having political affiliation for a lawyer is not a barrier for him or her to accept a brief from a client who is accused of a financial fraud or in a heinous crime.
As per Rules and Professional Standards of advocates, they can accept any brief in courts or tribunals or before any other authority in or before which she or he proposes to practice. Special circumstances may justify his refusal to accept a particular brief, Mr Reddy added.
He says it is not correct for political parties to target lawyers when they accept briefs in high profile cases that may go against party affiliation, as there is no rule or law that bars the advocate from accepting a brief on the basis of his or her political affiliation and it is for the advocates to decide themselves.
“There is nothing wrong in a law firm accepting Choksi as a client as everyone has a right to legal advice and defence,” Mr Reddy said.
Mr. C. Mallesh Rao, a senior criminal lawyer in the city, points out that “advocates, in addition to being professionals, are also officers of the courts and play a vital role in the administration of justice.”
He said the role of an advocate in any case is as a law officer to assist the court with regard to legal matters on behalf of parties by placing the facts of the case and applying proper law to enable the court to arrive at a decision.
The political parties often ignore this fact and give a political colour to controversial issues whenever a noted lawyer accepts a brief in a high profile or controversial case, he added.
He recalled that Mukul Rohatgi, former attorney general (AG), represented many of the accused in the 2G scam before becoming attorney general....