Sunday, December 12, 2004

public defense of the poor

A much appreciated and respected national leader said the now famous line: People who have less in life should have more in law. This is not simply rhetoric. Neither is it a motherhood statement. It is nothing less than a statement of truth, a cry for justice in favor of the poor.

This well known affirmation is to date still waiting for attention, still begging for realization. How long shall the poor wait? And how long can they wait?

In our country, the wealthy and powerful individuals are by and large above the law, beyond the reach of justice. And in our country too, practically all the poor and hapless are looked down upon by those applying the law, and are therefore the standard victims of injustice.

As the rich and the influential can take good care of themselves and their interests, it becomes mandatory for the government to protect the poor and to promote their interests. The truth is the government gets its resources from the indirect taxes paid by the majority of poor people—much more than the direct taxes paid by the few wealthy individuals who even manage to reduce them.

It is true that the government has a pool of de officio counsels for those who cannot afford them. But without the least intention of offending them, they themselves know that they are certainly not counted among the most able and competent practicing lawyers. It is also true that there are still some legal luminaries who in love for truth and in service to justice, give their service to the poor pro bono. Still, they are few and far between.

The poor have less in resources. The Government gets much from their combined taxes. It is their right to have competent counsels when accused of any crime—especially so when this is considered heinous by law. And it is the obligation of government to provide free and able defense lawyers for them. This is not an option for the government that is by the people, of the people and for the people, the poor in particular.

20 February 2004