Leading criminal lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani's decision to defend the suspended lecturer, S.A.R. Geelani, one of the accused in the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament, has raised Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's hackles. Despite vociferous protests with Sainiks defacing Jethmalani's office premises in Mumbai and a signed editorial by the Sena chief asking him to quit the Rajya Sabha before "shedding tears for traitors", Jethmalani has stood his ground. Excerpts of an interview with Murali Krishnan:
What were the specific reasons that prompted you to defend Geelani?
You don't need reasons to defend anyone. It is part of our professional duty and under our Constitution, which many people do not understand, every accused has the right to be defended by a lawyer of his choice. If the lawyer of his choice refuses, he must have a very valid reason, he becomes a party to denigrating a fundamental right. It is a breach of a statutory rule of the bar council. And a breach which calls for disqualification from the profession.