Holding that ‘appearing for a Maoist is not a crime’ and that an advocate cannot be penalised for doing his professional duty in defending a client accused of having Maoist links, the Madras High Court has discharged an advocate who was impleaded in a case based on the confession of one of the accused that the advocate handed over propaganda materials pertaining to banned CPI (Maoist) party.
Also, holding that when the sessions court itself in its order has held that there was no clinching evidence as prima facie for the petitioner being a member of terrorist gang and hence it ought not to have come to the conclusion that the petitioner cannot be absolved for the other offences, said, “At this juncture, it is apposite to mention that the petitioner is a practising advocate and he was appearing for the Maoists. Appearing for a Maoist is not a crime.”
“On the other hand, if a Maoist accused of an offence seeks the professional assistance of a lawyer, it is his duty to defend. Therefore, as rightly submitted by the petitioner’s counsel, with an ulterior motive to prevent the petitioner from defending the innocent Maoists, he has been implicated in this case,” Justice Muralidaran added.
The judge in his order also noted, “As a lawyer, the petitioner is said to have contacted the accused persons and during meeting some conversations took place between them. For example, meeting of an accused person in the prison by a lawyer would not mean that there was criminal conspiracy between them.”
Further, relying on various decisions of the Apex court that a judge is not a mere post office to frame the charge at the behest of the prosecution but has to exercise his judicial mind, the judge concluded, “In the instant case, except the confession statement said to have been given by the co-accused, there is no iota of material available on record to attract ingredients of the offence alleged against the petitioner and the assistant sessions judge erred in dismissing the discharge petition.”
The Dharmapuri Q branch CID had submitted that Murugan was a member of the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation and based on confession statement of the first accused incriminating materials, electronic items and pamphlets were seized.