Criminal law regulates governmental sanctions (e.g. imprisonment, fine etc.) against acts perceived to be detrimental to the interests of society. It consists primarily of two aspects, a) substantive law, which defines acts punishable under criminal law (e.g. Indian Penal Code) and b) procedural law, which prescribes the manner in which the substantive law is enforced.
What do they do?
A woman, the second wife of Harmish (name changed), is accused of killing her stepdaughter. There is no eyewitness to the incident and she has been implicated solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence. She was present with the victim on the rooftop of their home and the police, at her instance, have recovered a knife and a stick – weapons used to kill the child. Harmish is a witness against his wife.
Controversies have dogged Harmish’s family before the murder. Legal proceedings alleging mental and physical torture have been initiated against two of Harmish’s brothers by their wives – and the couples have been living separately since.
According to Harmish, his first wife died of illness. He alleges that his second wife killed his daughter because she did not like the child. No other motive could be attributed to the crime. The rooftop is accessible from other houses. The knife and the stick, without bloodstains, were seen by witnesses (Harmish and his brothers) before the arrival of the police. The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report also did not find any bloodstains on the clothes of the accused that could connect her to the offence. Yet, she has remained in custody for the past three years.
Her response to the accusation has been that she and her stepdaughter were basking in the sun on the rooftop when the assailant appeared and attacked them.
While the child was stabbed to death, she also suffered injuries.
You as a criminal lawyer might feel that the woman has been falsely implicated and the husband has accused her only because he wants to get rid of her. Fine enough. But you have to prove the innocence of the accused in the eyes of the law. And therein lies the challenge in the practice of criminal law.
“Criminal law is the summation of the principles which govern the behaviour of people in society and violation of the same is liable to punishment,” says Atul Sharma, advocate and helmsman of Atul Sharma & Associates, a Delhi-based law firm. “In other words, it is a code to regulate behaviour of individuals in society.”
The practice of criminal law in India can be divided into two broad categories: a) trial and b) appellate. The role of a criminal lawyer at the trial stage is to put forth the case of his/her client by means of evidence and cross- examination, while at the appellate stage it is to test whether the applicable law has been correctly applied to the facts of the present case. “At both stages, there is a dearth of quality criminal lawyers (in the country), and therefore, there is immense potential for aspiring criminal lawyers,” says Anuj Handa, 27, a Delhi-based advocate.
But everyone may not be as lucky as Handa to earn R80,000 a month at such a young age. And that’s one of the challenges. “For young lawyers to establish themselves is a time-consuming process and, therefore, it is less attractive to them,” says Raj Kumar, advocate, Atul Sharma Associates. But, can achievers not be expected to rise up to the challenge?
. Good communication skills
. Quick responsiveness
. Open, flexible mind
. Good authoritative leadership qualities
. Good listening and a powerful oratorical skills
. Out-of-the-box thinking ability
How do I get there?
Pass Class 12 - any stream. Sit for the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT)/ other entrance tests conducted by individual institutions and take admission in BA LLB, which is a five-year course. You can also take admission in the three-year degree programme, LLB, conducted by Delhi university and other institutes of higher learning. Admission to the three-year degree course will also be on the basis of admission tests conducted by institutions offering the degree programme. You will have to be a graduate to qualify for the three-year course. After BA LLB or LLB you can do your masters, LLM.