Ethics and the attorney - Kaidul

Ethics and the attorney

Even as the courts and Governments are expressing concern about the mounting cases, the reality is that misuse of law has become rampant, with innocent citizens becoming victims. There was a time when ignorance was blamed for all this. The assumption

Even as the courts and Governments are expressing concern about the mounting cases, the reality is that misuse of law has become rampant, with innocent citizens becoming victims. There was a time when ignorance was blamed for all this. The assumption that little knowledge is dangerous has given way to the belief that awareness would help the cause and hence campaigns to educate and enlighten the people are undertaken. But what is happening is that more knowledge has become more dangerous. The conclusion is that the enactment of law and knowledge of law may not be enough. It is the quality of the people that will make the difference.

Particularly, in the case of law, it will be the quality of the advocacy, the ethics and values of the men and women in the legal profession. Without people of principles, practice of law may not achieve the desired goal that is justice. In words of Sigmund Freud, the first requisite of civilisation is that of justice. Amartya Sen in his literary masterpiece, The Idea of Justice, has tried to link ethical thinking with objective reasoning. Sen suggests that we should understand reason as the ultimate arbitrator of ethical beliefs. But there is a rider. Ethical thinking requires us to be as objective as we reasonably can because reason is capable of recognising the dangers of ‘overselling reason’, that is, being overconfident in the conclusions of our own reasoning.

Understanding the basic character of this reason may not be easy but one definite way is to realise that pure reason or objective reason must be free from the influence of ego. Ethical objectivity is the essence and to understand this we need to be the ‘impartial spectator’ of Adam Smith or apply public reason as advocated by John Rawl whose book forms the basis of Sen’s idea of justice. But understanding this hard philosophy may not be easy unless we take into account the ground reality or realise the softer issues that govern the attorney’s psyche. Let us try to examine what drives the idea of justice and what derails it. A simple question — who advocates the cause of criminals and the corrupt, the liars and the crooks? Obviously, the attorney. A hypothetical scenario — what will happen if no one is ready to defend a wrongdoer? The answer may not be far to seek.

Since such a scenario is completely utopian, let us think of a more feasible approach. It is common knowledge that these days most cases lodged in the courts are false. And it is common sense that almost all of these are lodged only after taking the attorney into confidence. Now what if the attorney refuses to consider false cases as his or her brief. But this is also not possible unless ethical objectivity is inculcated through some means in the attorney. It is no wonder why one of the major concerns of the Apex Court in 2016 was the urgent need to review the regulatory mechanism for the legal profession. With rising ambition and increasing greed of professionals, there is a need to put the onus on the attorney also for false cases, just like celebrities can be hauled up for proclaiming false benefits of products or the Chartered Accountants for deceiving the law. Ill advise by the legal practitioner is compensatory to the injured. True, identifying such people may not be easy but the mere threat of law may work.

The writer is a professor of management and public speaker. He can be reached at [email protected]

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