Innocent, Until Proven Guilty
Arguably, a defense counsel faces an astonishing credit of the public ordeal. It bears one of the most stereotypical, unfair and biased evaluation especially as far as criminal cases are concerned. Simple it is to impute the accused who are televised with widespread news reporting its’ crime, as a bad guy for whatever their commission or omission of wrongdoings. Simple it is to say that the men pulling their shirts covering their faces are despicable to look at. And simple it is to say that the black and white suited men and women defending them are striding in dishonor. Many can simply say. But not many can simply see that cases without a verdict, and cases ongoing, are not cases closed. Prevalent usage of the term allegation brings a connotation that the man impugned is yet to be conclusively ascertained in a court of justice. It is exasperating to read out loud the recurring misconception and misperception that lawyers encounter, notwithstanding the idea that without proper and adequate legal representation, the right man can be in the wrong, and the wronged could be hung.
Innocent until proven guilty. A widely known expression which has integrated to be a momentous legal dogma. The presumption of innocence is a universal notion prescribing non-guilt to a man of accused when there is trial until the law orders them convicted. It is also found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11. The public must bat an eye to this notorious right. The law is not just on its surface. It is not just you witnessing a regrettable scene of theft and order the culprit to be chopped off his hands. No. It is rather a farrago of stringent legal threshold together with disconcerting reality of dearth of resources to a point pushing a man to even ponder criminal actions to aid their state of misfortune. The theft case abovementioned, it could be a man of desperation, attempting to fill a plate for his family of five. The car that ran the red light you saw just now, her child might be aching from an abrupt attack of a disease. Even if it is not a state of misfortune, or if it superficially acted upon ill-will, if the glove does not fit, you must acquit.
As I have mentioned, the law is designed to be of overwhelming strictness, to ensure the correct dispense of justice and to not wrongly pronounce guilt. This compels the help of a legal representation. A person knowing how the law works. To dissemble the puzzles of allegation that one faces and places it in the veracious order. Take the current case of Zulfarhan (UPNM) for example, the defense counsel submitted that the cause of death was not only contributed by the agonizing and abhorrent abusing of the late Zulfarhan, it was also contributed by an external factor, which is a medical complication. Following the publication of the defense’s submission, clamor erupted and proliferated amongst the netizens, stating how dirty the law is, tunggu la peguambela di akhirat nanti, and the most famous of them all patutla kaki lawyer sebelah kat neraka. These sweeping views exist as to the infamous reason of lacking in understanding. What many fail to see is that, albeit the victim was ill-treated ferociously, if the cause of the death was not just contributed by the doings of the perpetrators but rather fueled by other significant events as well, the charge for murder is easier said than done. Let say A wants to injure B, picks up a knife and stabs him from the back and B seen to be lying on the ground unconscious. A is afraid that B is dead and wants to hide the evidence, so A throws him into a lake and left him there. Not to A’s knowledge, B was still alive when he was stabbed and B was found dead due to drowning. This different transaction and the transition of events from stabbing to throwing the victim into the lake render a break in the causation. The court cannot simply convict A for murder although he was the one who threw B into the lake. He did not even have the intention to murder B in the first place. The case of Re Palani Goundan proves this point. Now I am in no way asserting that what happened to the late Zulfarhan is similar to the illustration aforementioned, nor am I justifying or defending the accused’s inhuman behavior. Fact is, it is more than what meets the eye. As ideal the concept of law is to place something at the right place, it is undeniable that it is also no more than rigmarole.
Ibn ‘Abbas (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu) said that the Messenger of Allah (SallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalalm) said: “Were people to be given according to their claims, some would claim the wealth and blood of others. But the burden of proof is upon the claimant and the taking of an oath is upon the one who denies (the allegation)”. For the majority of Muslim Malaysians here, it speaks volume when there is even an existing hadith that prescribes the nitty-gritty of procedures pertains an allegation of misconduct or criminal. The presumption of innocence is not a secular principle, rather it is embedded within the religion that we profess. If it is found part and parcel of our sacred religion, why cannot we respect the modus operandi of the law in operation? It is alright to question the legal reality every now and then, but questions have answers and the answers may not click with our principles. That is no excuse to remain facile to the truth in question. There are already countless bigots who fear nothing but the evolution of their own mind and self. It is time to turn over a new leaf and ingrain a society of dynamic thinking and progress. One remains innocent until proven guilty, but one is guilty when innocence is proven in adversarial.
_ Ahmad Musleh Al-Muntazar Dzulkefly (Cabaran Penulisan Artikel – Kategori UIAM)