Mr Justice Dev Darshan Sud shares his journey in law, holding some of the most quintessential posts in this State and the country. He is retired as the Judge of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh and has held the post of the President of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
He has been interviewed by Khushbu Sood, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from HPNLU.
1. To begin with, if I may request you to please share with our readers something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your early years.
My schooling was in St. Edwards School in Shimla from where I passed out in 1966 and then joined the Panjab University, Chandigarh to complete my BCom in 1970. Thereafter, I had short stint as an articled clerk; gave up my study for CA and joined the Himachal Pradesh University where I graduated in law in 1977 and then completed my master’s degree in law from the Faculty of Law, Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. I had the privilege of being taught by and interacted with many eminent personalities and professors including Prof Chauhan, Prof Upendra Baxi, Prof M.P. Singh, Prof P.K. Tripathi, Prof Lotika Sarkar, to name a few. I topped the LLB examinations and in Delhi, I was one of few who passed out in the first attempt.
2. What inclined you towards the field of legal education? Do you reckon any specific incident that made you choose law as a career?
Having done well in academics, I always wanted to take up teaching as a career but due to some circumstances, I could not pursue this career and because of my family commitments, I had to stay back in India though I was offered admission in the master’s degree abroad in USA, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand. I am a first-generation lawyer and it was a difficult task uphill, but I only have to thank my family for their support and of, in particular, my deceased wife, Shrimati Nandita, who was a wonderful person, a source of inspiration and encouragement. She gave up her personal comforts to help me set up in my law practice.
My struggle and the challenges of setting up a law practice only encouraged me more to attain my goal.
3. How did you shape at the law school? Please also share your interests and motivations. How did you navigate through your career path?
I was familiar with commercial laws having studied company law, contract law, sale of goods, labour laws, income tax, industrial law, during my study at Chandigarh. When I took up law studies, I found subjects taught as fascinating, challenging and infusing in me a sense that I should devote my life to research in law, in particular, I wanted to work in jurisprudence, and the relationship of law to economics, which I had chosen as my field of study for postgraduating/doctoral work.
On the question of whether the writings of any particular eminent law scholars encourage me to take up academic work were, namely, Lord Denning, Prof Julius Stone, Pollock and Maitland, Sir William Walworth, amongst others, of course, I was reading extensively contemporary writings on law, I can name Roscoe Pound, but the list, would not stop here…. I was reading the ancient Indian law and literature in the works of Prof Derek. I was reading, but not acknowledge the writings of Paras Diwan, Baxi, M.P. Singh and my other teachers along with the deeply researched works of Justice P.B. Mukherjee. I was reading law journals, published abroad and also Indian Society of International Law and, etc.
I can say without hesitation that my time at the law school has shaped my character. The time spent, the reading as a tough curriculum stood me in good state through my career as a lawyer and as a Judge.
4. How has your experience shaped you into the professional? What are your learnings from the positions that you have held?
My motivation throughout my career and my life is based upon two interlinked significant areas, the struggle and then ability to think. It produces and empowers me with the energy to a sense of right direction. My experience has always given me a learning of hard work. Any experience may come with no money but it surely comes with the strength and courage to build and make impossible to possible.
5. If you may, please share your experience of holding such quintessential posts as the High Court Judge and the President at Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
I am privileged to say that I am one amongst the High Court Judges and have held some significant positions. But many will and can tell an experience of holding such posts but I, as a Judge would share a personal experience that when anyone holds the court, it should totally be based on the knowledge of law and not personal or otherwise; and the decisions should not be influenced by personal likes or dislikes. My experience with the Tax Tribunal was challenging but fruitful.
6. What, according to you, has changed/modified in law, both in statutes and in the society?
Over my experience of law, I have come across many changes and modifications in law and the society in general. One of the most important changes that I have come across is the pendency of cases, since the people are becoming more aware of their rights. I would also say that the public interest litigation, for example, has become a fashion.
The tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies are formed, so, therefore the categorisation and hierarchy of courts is one thing that I have noticed as a major change in the court of law and the society. There is also a tendency to abuse the process of law through frivolous petitions which flood the courts and add to pendency.
7. How do you think that the pandemic has affected the working of law and what challenges are, currently, being faced by the judiciary?
As I see, from outside the intrinsic working of the court, I witness that through the phase of pandemic, it is crystal clear, that the court’s functioning cannot be halted. In fact, in these times, people are more aware about their unimplemented rights. Likely, we see many petitions which are presented in the courts, even related to supply of medicines and vaccines. The pandemic has shown the future working of the courts. The virtual courtroom practice is a new experience but it has its own problems such as related to the disposal of the cases, timeline, intensity of the cases and, etc.
8. Not many people are familiar with the concept “exhaustion of a search”. What are your views on it?
In my opinion, I feel that there are certain concepts which are developed but are never exhausted. There is always a scope of further development and research on any topic or material ever present in time. I have always believed that the idea presented by the world is never sufficient and is always open for dissent. Even the western concepts have also proved that the negative interaction of all concepts, always have a possibility of research in it.
I also like the idea of interactive sessions and meetings and conceptualising their ideas as it can always give a new perspective to any issue. However, I can also say that I believe that if and when a person is working on or has a point to put forward in any topic, it is necessary for him to squeeze every ounce of information available on such topic, therefore for me, the concept of exhaustion is completely based on the urge to know.
9. What advice would you like to give students of law in a post-COVID era where students are anxious about choosing carrier paths?
As the pandemic has proved that no opportunity or option is left behind for a student or any person otherwise, to explore. I would always believe that academics is one of the most important sectors and the student cannot divert from it. Any higher degree or being good in academics can eventually, directly or indirectly, inspire students. Also, as these difficult times have been unfolded in front of us, it is important for every student out there to learn the importance of sacrifice and be prepared for it.
10. Any advice you would like to give to the readers of SCC blog? Apart from this is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers of SCC Online?
I would just like to conclude this part of the interview by saying that it is difficult for everyone to choose a career path and to build a life out of it. For example, for a lawyer, the struggle would be to work hard in courts, to be researched; for civil servants, it would be focused on administrative work, but, the one thing to always go by is that struggle is always rewarding and satisfaction would never come from money but by faith to maintain that approach and do good for yourself and for the society at large.