Life has come full circle for me.  When I wrote my book “How Gourango Lost His O”, published by EBC, I had made public my spat with my dear friend Sumeet Malik for refusing to publish an article I had penned on how the Supreme Court was unravelling the edifice of labour laws.  Who would have thought that a day would come when I would be invited to write a piece for the SCC Blog and that too on the auspicious occasion of India’s 75th Anniversary.  So here, I write 75 random thoughts about the Bar and the Bench to commemorate the 75 years that India has enjoyed her freedom.

 

  1. Out-dated Modes of Address: ‘Lordship’ is as colonial as it gets. Justice Muralidhar and Justice Bhat made a request to abjure from such forms of address, so did the Bar Council of India.  Nothing happened!
  2. Coats, Gowns and Bands: The legal couture is also so not Indian climate friendly.
  3. Wigs and Maces: Calcutta High Court has both and Madras only has the latter.  Time to pack these up and ship them off to London?
  4. Court Orderlies dressed in Raj Regalia: What’s going on? Do we really need to re-affirm the majesty of law in the post pandemic age by having a fellow in fancy dress costume come and hold back the chair as His Lordship would grace his seat? The VC hearings were such a breath of fresh air.  The Judge would simply switch on his screen and said ‘Good Morning’!
  5. Archaic court language: Even the court staff seemed to have been trained in the colonial lingo.  In a normal office, you would be told that “Boss wants to see you”.  In court, the staff will call you and whisper deferentially “His Lordship has desired your audience” or something to that effect.
  6. The Colour Black: I love the colour and besides ‘Black’ is the best Amitabh film.  It is said that the Inns of Court had resolved to mourn Queen Mary (some say James I) and hence, the lawyers dressed themselves up in black.  Some bloke forgot to rescind the notification.
  7. Bar Exam: Thank God! I missed it, but hey, I had something worse and it was called “Apprenticeship”.  Introduced by the Bar Council in 1996 at Ram Jethmalani’s persistence, we had to dress up like a waiter in black coat and tie for a year and just hang around. We did not even have the right to wear a coat or a band or even seek a pass-over or an adjournment.
  8. Bedevilling: Making juniors work for almost free.  I can’t think of any profession that is so exploitative.
  9. Character certificate for enrolment: For most young lawyers with no father or god-father in the profession, the entry into the Bar itself starts with a lie.  Imagine a small town outsider in a metro like Delhi or Bombay getting so many established lawyers to sign off on her enrolment form certifying that they have known her for years.
  10. CLAT: I certainly will not pass CLAT if I attempted today. Everything is so cut throat in our country. Thank God! I chose law in times when it was also the last resort of the scoundrel.
  11. NLUs: I get it that every State wants an NLU, pretty much like IIMs and IIT but seriously, some quality control should be there? In any case, with its fancy salaries, Jindal seems to be attracting all happening teachers with impressive CVs.
  12. NLU-local law college: Imagine how difficult it is becoming for Non-NLU students to secure placements and jobs. Non-NLU wale must try how we at NLS had handled the “Harvard” Challenge. When a visiting Professor from there said “NLS was the Harvard of the East”, we corrected him saying “Harvard was the NLS of the West”.
  13. No. 1 thing they don’t teach in Law School: How to fib and get adjournments.
  14. Corona related adjournments: “Milord, I am in a weak network area”, “Milord, the counsel is feeling feverish”
  15. No. 2 thing they don’t teach in Law School: How to Pfaff and get clients.
  16. No. 3 thing they don’t teach in Law School: How to make yourself a successful lawyer and perhaps even a future judge by spending most of the time in the Court Canteen.
  17. No. 4 thing they don’t teach in Law School: How to network and self promote.
  18. No. 5 thing they don’t teach in Law School: How to negotiate fees with clients and briefing lawyers.
  19. No. 6 thing they don’t teach in Law School: How to recover such negotiated fees when the case is over.
  20. No. 7 thing they don’t teach in Law School: How to read a client and a judge and to tailor your response accordingly.
  21. Canteen: Bun Samosa. If you are not from the Delhi High Court you will not get the emotion this term signifies.
  22. The Display Board: The most watched façade of the Court.
  23. Destination Bus: If you have not been on this bus then sorry you have not struggled.
  24. The Saket Mall: If you are an occasional visitor to Delhi’s swanky Saket District Court, you cannot miss the Mall next door. I know many, myself included, who would always try and include a Mall visit post court. In contrast if you visit sweet Tis Hazari, Rohini or Karkardooma District Courts, there is no fancy mall by its side to tempt you to linger your stay by even a minute after your job is done!
  25. Court street food: Calcutta High Court beats all others hollow in this department.  The range and taste of the street food on sale around the court complex for lawyers and court staff is mind boggling.
  26. Mad Litigant: Every court has one.  The Calcutta High Court was famous for a lady litigant walking around aimlessly as she had lost her balance just fighting her cases.
  27. Mad Lawyer: The lawyer version of the above.
  28. Law Bookshop: Every court has attached to it one or two.  Something one starts frequenting lesser and lesser as one becomes bigger and bigger in practice.  Law Students and lawyers can be seen frequenting and haggling with the old hands for greater discounts.
  29. Andhra Bhavan: The canteen extension for the Delhi High Court lawyers. The Nobel prize for the fellow who manages the crowd there is long overdue.
  30. Triveni Canteen: The canteen extension for the Supreme Court.  The home cooked feel of the food is unmissable.  The jostle for space and a quick bite to return to the Court by 2 is something many lawyers would understand.
  31. Café Lota: The larger bench of Triveni (run now by the same company). Many lawyers will swear by their Palak Patta Chaat and Bhapa Doi Cheesecake!
  32. Bengali Market: The Chole Bhature, Golgappa and Chaat-only the non-health conscious lawyers.
  33. Khan Market: The favourite haunt of Bhagwan Das Road as well as Sher Shah Road.  With Corporates moving to Gurugram and Noida, this place has been taken over by lawyers.
  34. China Fare: The ratio decidendi of Khan Market. The number of lawyers stuffed into this narrow joint is what fables are made of.
  35. Legal Awards: Have always longed for an award ever since my college medals were forfeited for misbehavior.  “Best 40 lawyers under 40”, “Best Boutique Law Firm”, “Best GC”, the awards are exotic and every year the “juries” which pick these awards get more and more interesting.  Organising legal awards is big business now.  My totally unrelated question is -are clients really that stupid?
  36. Coffee Table Book on Lawyers: The previous thought at Pro Max Level!
  37. Firm Offsites: They are so much fun.  The drinking and merry making with the mandatory pep talk sessions thrown in.  The sites where so many legal affairs happen, some extra-marital, blossom!
  38. Litigation Senior Offsites: What are they?
  39. Internships: Do we really learn anything during a one month internship or is it all about that certificate and addition to the CV?
  40. Virtual Internships: What are they?
  41. Court Vacations: The only saving grace of a litigation practice.  Needs to be zealously safeguarded for all the talk of “Mounting arrears”, “English judges went back to England” and “just like school children”.  The first thing that I do when a new calendar is issued is check out the court holidays and map out the holidays.  The summer, Durga Puja and winter breaks are well known.  The real delight are the sudden long breaks like this years Independence Day week long holiday that the Delhi High Court has given itself!
  42. Local Holidays: Means nothing. Just a term used by the Court to declare an in between working day also a holiday so that they can be clubbed with the actual holidays to make the break longer!
  43. The Band and Gown Shop: Think of those poor people next time you fuss about the uniform. In the Bombay High Court there is a poor lady who sells nice custom made bands and “butter silk” gowns.
  44. Jhabvala, Kunji, Dukki (in CLC) et al: The cheat-sheets which have helped many a lawyer steer through law school. Yet when they become lawyers in their offices the backdrop is adorned by a complete SCC set and the dukkis (the real source of her gyan) fall by the way side.  I assiduously avoided these until International Law in Fourth Year.  That is when I discovered that the notes I had prepared after sifting through ten books in the library were identical to the Jhabvala which had cogged those same books.  What a waste of four years no?
  45. The Court Diary: The digital millennial will not relate to this.  Remember how excited we would be each year getting to fill a new court diary. I always wondered why they carried the retirement dates of judges.  For many lawyers the CPC, IPC , Evidence, Stamp Act and Limitation Act were what the Universal’s diary would extract!
  46. Welfare Stamp: Ask any young lawyer or a court clerk.  They will associate it with spitting. I am yet to come across someone who will affix this will glue instead of human saliva!
  47. The Envelope: How a brief is maintained varies from court to court. Calcutta High Court lawyers simply fold the papers and tie them up.  Delhi High Court has the boring file system.  For the Supreme Court lawyers it is the paperbook.  Chandigarh rocks and beats all.  They have the envelope/packet system where each case has a packet in which all the papers are stored.
  48. The Fresh and Honest Coffee machine: At least one installation in court that can boldly proclaim its freshness and honesty.
  49. The Court loo: Every CJI, however briefly he may occupy the top seat, seeks to leave behind his legacy on the institution.  One did so by renovating the court loos.  The joke has been that this is the only room in the building where “relief” is guaranteed.
  50. The Court Creche: Need more. Sadly, it is yet to gain more demand among women lawyers.
  51. The Parking lot attendant: The most under-appreciated cog in the justice delivery system.  Ace ‘space manager’, can put professionals to shame and imagine the stress of managing the cars of lawyers who would blow their top at the slightest scratch.
  52. Physical Cause List Delivery BoyExtinct.
  53. Justdial: Its irritating that despite me refusing to sign up to Justdial it seems my number was carried.  Many lawyers sign up for this. Can’t blame the poor chaps, with the ban on advertisements by lawyers and all!
  54. VC Hearings: What a beauty. I was a late convert but loved how it made life so easy.  One day I had appeared in the Supreme Court, two High Courts and the Central Administrative Tribunal, all sitting in my Delhi Office.
  55. VC Mishaps: We heard about, the kissies, the red undees, shaving in a vest, the hookah and what not. My personal worst was appearing before a Single Judge while the camera was on before the DB.  I apologized and Justice Hima Kohli, then in the Delhi High Court, was most gracious to forgive me.
  56. Court Staff: During Covid times these were the real rockstars who kept the system going.  The silent gladiators of the God of Justice!
  57. Webinars: The fad went away faster than Covid.
  58. Web-senior conferences: Here to stay forever!
  59. Webex-Cisco: The best link I found during the pandemic. The ones used by the Supreme Court and Orissa High Court were terrible. Specially where we did not have control over either the mic or the screen and all power was wielded by the mysterious “Control Room”.
  60. Live streaming: Finally, Covid ensured that High Courts like Gujarat, Patna and Madhya Pradesh live-streamed court proceedings.  The effect was electrifying.  The non-litigating public finally got to witness first-hand what lawyers and judges have to put up with. Also created social media heroes out of rockstar judges such as Justice Ashutosh Kumar of the Patna High Court.
  61. Live tweeting: Twitter has revolutionized court proceedings. Live tweeting, in cases where live streaming is yet to penetrate has brought court action real time to one and all.  Even High Court judges have followed live tweeting of important proceedings before the Top Court.  The jury is still out on this given that stray comments from the bar and the bench and queries from the bench have led to trending and trolling on social media without understanding that this is a normal process of ‘justicing’.
  62. Online Law Portals: The real heroes of the Digital Age! Judges refer to reports carried real time on such portals such as Live Law, Bar and the Bench and Leaflet.  The SCC has also invited its digital avatar!
  63. Online Case Search: Imagine us fossils from a pre-computer age! However, nothing teaches real legal research skills like the good old fashioned way!
  64. Regular/Leave Granted Matters: There should be a rule that any judge who issues rule will have the hear the case even if the roster is changed.
  65. Time cap on hearing: If the SCOTUS caps at 30 mins a side, why cant we?
  66. Extension of Court hours: No way!  Lawyers and judges actually prepare for the next day when they are not sitting in court.
  67. Bar Elections: I have never truly understood why people want to run for Bar Association offices.  I get the power and recognition angle but imagine the stress of having to be nice to all lawyers all the time.
  68. Bar Campaigning: My survival matter is say:  “Of course you have my vote” to all.
  69. Legal Treatises: When we were young we would save up and pay an arm and a leg for great legal works like the Commonwealth Law Lecture Series, the Constituent Assembly Debates, Shiva Rao, Seervai, et al and that too many of the second hand.  There would be law book sellers who would be visiting the office of seniors and pushing such books even to tempted struggling juniors like us.
  70. Lawyers-Judges Cricket Matches: Fixed? Na Kidding!
  71. Bar Functions: Free food? That’s being mean. However seriously have you seen how many lawyers line up at the snacks counter?  I know I shall get into trouble for this one.
  72. Bar Candidates and their Agenda for young lawyers: None.
  73. Minimum Wages for Lawyers?: Perhaps!
  74. Maximum cap for Senior Advocates?: Never!
  75. The Gourango Feeling! And you thought, I would let you go without promoting HGLHO? Since May, so many young lawyers have read and shared.  They in fact celebrated “Gourango” and many taking the trouble to take the book to distant shores and clicking stunning photographs.  It really overwhelming the kind of love our Gourango has received.  Thank you and Jai Hind!

 


Sanjoy Ghose, Senior Advocate, Delhi High Court

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