Justice CD Singh graduated in the Law from Delhi University in the year 1993. He enrolled as an advocate on July 20, 1994. He practised in the Supreme Court of India as an “Advocate-on Record”. He was appointed as Additional Judge on Sep 22, 2017 and he took oath as Permanent Judge on Sep 06, 2019. Later, He was transferred to Delhi High Court on Oct 11, 2021 and currently serving as Judge, Delhi High Court.
1. Please tell us about your journey so far?
My journey has certainly been an interesting one. Like any other youngster at the beginning of their career, I was trying to figure my life out. I was confused, uncertain, yet determined that I want to work hard to achieve great things in life. My journey in the legal profession began after I completed my graduation and moved to the capital city of India — Delhi. Since I hail from a small district in Uttar Pradesh called Sultanpur, the entire experience of moving away from home to build a career in Delhi was at the same time unique and overwhelming for an individual. At the Delhi University, I had the privilege to meet some great minds during my LLB days and learn and mould myself from everyone around me.
Thereafter, I joined the Bar Council of Delhi and started practising as an advocate. After this I joined the Chamber of Justice Sanjay Karol who is presently the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court. Working alongside him, gave me an insight into the functioning of the judicial system from a ground level. These nuances I learnt during those days came to use when I shifted my practice to the Supreme Court and started working with late Advocate Anip Sachthey who was a leading Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court, and was later designated Senior Advocate by the court.
During my practice, I earned my LLM from National Law University Jodhpur through distance education. After passing my AOR exam in 2001, I began practising as an Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court. But I knew that I did not want to stop there, and that is when I decided to take an office in a Bengali market with a friend, Justice S. Chandrasekhar, who is now a Judge at the Ranchi High Court. Working at the office helped me gain proper exposure and recognition in the fraternity. Soon after, I was empanelled as a panel advocate for the State of Uttar Pradesh at the Supreme Court. After having attained ample experience by representing the State for over years, I was subsequently appointed as a Standing Counsel for the States of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh. Thereafter, I was also appointed as an Additional Advocate General for the State of Chhattisgarh. I also had the privilege to represent the Supreme Court at the Supreme Court and various institutions and organisations in the Supreme Court and High Courts. There were several other milestones in my journey at the Bar and finally I was elevated to the Bench in 2017 — having been appointed to the Allahabad High Court where I served until October 2021 before being transferred to the Delhi High Court.
Today while stating it like a fact, it might seem like the journey was a piece of cake, but reminiscing the early days, I would like to let the budding legal practitioners know that nothing comes easy in life. Every individual has his fair share of struggles in life. It is these challenges that are the beauty of life — these help to hone your skills and manifest your innate potential. I have been steering through these with grit and determination, and blessings of well-wishers. The journey so far has kept me on my toes while enjoying every bit of it, and even today I wake up in the morning with the same enthusiasm and zeal to keep moving forward and onwards – चरैवेति-चरैवेति.
2. If I may say, you have had an amazing innings so far. As you mentioned, one can say, you have donned many hats, be it of a lawyer, an elected member representative of the Bar; a government counsel and then you have been part of the Bench, which role has been the most exciting for you and which one has been the most challenging and why?
Every job has its own set of challenges and I am sure every individual faces them at certain points of their professional life. When you are a student who is just charting out one’s career, everything feels new. As I stated earlier, the process certainly induces some anxiety but it also satisfies your curiosity of knowing the “how” of things. The most enduring challenge for me so far has been that of carrying the robes of a lawyer. I was dealing with different cases, different clients, different causes day in and day out, most of which were new to me as a young practitioner. To tackle these cases, to understand the psyche of clients, to form a front on these cases and to present the case in the court — was a process that was invigorating for me. Once you gain knowledge about these things, you develop a rational approach that helps you resolve various situations.
I had the same uncertainties and anxieties about the future when I started out with my career. But now when I look back, I realise that it is better to face these problems early in life than to not have them at all. In my opinion, it is absolutely normal, and to some extent, essential. Once I started overcoming my own fears and insecurities by qualifying exams, meeting challenges — both on the personal and professional front with the help of my peers in life who could relate to my concerns.
All these midnight toiling and daytime churnings groom you as a professional and equip you for the future tasks. I must say that while it was a challenge, it sure was an exciting and rewarding one.
3. Sir, as you hail from Allahabad, how difficult was it for you to establish your practice in Delhi as a lawyer?
Anyone, in the vocation of law, knows how challenging it is to be practising as a lawyer. From ensuring basic sustenance at the personal front to acquiring essential legal resources and building a clientele in an unknown and fast-paced city — every bit of it was a challenge in itself. Being a first-generation lawyer in Delhi, while I endured to stay in the profession, I could see my fellow practitioners get recommendations for the best chambers because of their connections in the fraternity. Often, despite me being equally capable, I could not access such opportunities which were offered to them on a platter just because of their background.
All of this initially brought a sense of demotivation to my disposition, however, the emotional support I received from my family and well-wishers was extremely helpful. My father had a progressive outlook towards my career and sincerely believed that I was capable enough to make it. He never made me feel the pressure of not trying hard enough. Even though he had his own apprehensions about Delhi as a city of practice, being a parent, he always encouraged me to go after my dreams and goals. Later on, in life when I met my wife, she took up his role exceptionally, and made sure that she supported me throughout my journey. Seeing my family encouraging me in such a way kept me going in the right direction with a greater level of determination.
However, I must say that today a lot has changed for good — thanks to the advent and access of the internet and technology resulting in empowerment of lawyers vis-à-vis resources and networking. Still, challenges remain for first-generation lawyers from small towns and villages who migrate for their practice. Yet amidst all this despair there is hope that by working hard, acquiring a good skill set and with the right approach, even sky is not the limit.
4. How different is your present role as compared to the rest, especially when you may be faced with dealing with very sensitive issues, day in day out?
Being a Judge is a one-of-a-kind experience. When I was appointed to the Allahabad High Court, I instantly fell in love with the job and felt well-suited to it. Although in retrospect, I find that I underestimated some of the inherent challenges of the service. One such limitation is that the very nature of the service requires some degree of isolation from the society so as to impartially adjudicate the cases without being influenced. That has its own merits for the judiciary as an institution, however that might not be as beneficial for an individual. While carrying on my service, I realised that I had allowed myself to become physically and emotionally isolated. In every case, you must remain objective and poised and decide each case on its merits, entirely removed from your personal feelings about the people and causes involved. This can be difficult because humans are naturally emotional beings.
However, it is high time that the society and legal fraternity must realise that Judges are susceptible to internal struggle and dilemma of what is right and just, in addition to any challenges that other human beings face. The ardent task of judging is one ridden with thorns and thistles, or as quoted in the Upanishads as – क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया. What keeps a Judge moving is the passion for and the noble endeavour of serving justice.
5. In the context of the subject we are discussing, do you think, legal profession has changed over a period of time and how?
Change is inevitable. Societies are structured in a way that every few decades, we see changes to some of its most crucial social, economic, political, and financial aspects. Law is unquestionably something that is closely associated with each one of these. So to answer your question, yes, I do believe that in my course of profession, I have witnessed several changes to the functionalities of the legal profession. In my opinion, quite recently, the biggest and most prominent change was brought to the sector with the advent of the pandemic. The change had a multi-dimensional impact and had several aspects associated with it. Many human rights organisations and institutions began to question the system, even though the measures were taken to eradicate the problem. The law, remaining unbiased and just, had to address the concerns of both — the system as well as the advocates of human rights. Therefore, the legal sector had to make changes to several judicial policies to avoid this and many related conflicts.
6. Do you think mental health issues and its effects on legal fraternity on the whole is a myth or a reality? What according to you could be the possible causes for the same?
To completely disregard the fact that mental health issues have impacted legal fraternity would be equivalent to saying that the people under this profession are not humans. Every human being, regardless of his nature, has several emotions that drive him through his journey irrespective of the profession. Judges and attorneys in the profession are taught to be always free from bias, and not to get involved personally in their cases. However, while dealing with case, cause and clients, such situations, where their deepest insecurities and emotional disturbances are triggered, are not uncommon.
An aspiring lawyer entering the legal profession is afraid of failure. He believes that any negative order or observation from the court might well spell the end of his career. As a result, tension and anxiety become a part and parcel of advocacy. While some are equipped enough to deal with it, some struggle and require support. The nature of support required varies depending upon the individuals and their circumstances. Again, at times such distress signs might be apparent while often they may not be as evident and even the person might not be aware of his ailment. We as seniors or colleagues must do our bit to help our colleagues empathetically and easen their lives and struggles.
7. We feel that social media has played some major role in increasing mental health issues in the young generation. Please share your thoughts on it?
Social media has its own pros and cons. As regards mental health, though the social media revolution has transformed communication seamless, global and innovative, it has unleashed a plethora of mental health issues. From inferiority complex, attention deficit, triggering of insecurities to chasing quick money and success had plagued the generations that have seen the social media occupy a major chunk of their life.
Again, notwithstanding the ills, social media can be a potent tool to manifold increase the awareness for mental health. I will be honest that the awareness about the mental health issues has seen a recent uprise. This is not to say that mental health as a general issue did not exist, but the awareness about it has only come to light with the advancement of what I would say — the internet world. I believe it has been an extremely positive social development for every sector. Earlier, people would disregard issues related to mental health thinking of it as a mere emotional outburst of some sort, not understanding the fact that mental health problems can also be chronic, with no detectable cause.
There was a certain kind of stigma that was attached to it which made people think of it as an indicator of emotional and mental “weakness”. However, in recent years, thanks to social media, the younger generation and even the elder one who are familiar with its workings have become more informed on the issue. In addition, many OTT shows are now coming up with stories that depict the impact of mental health related issues on children and adults alike.
Hence, it is upon us to decide how we employ these tools to our benefit. Technology, therefore, should be an enabler and not our master.
8. Mental health sector remains a concern for all and COVID-19 Pandemic has added up to the problems related to mental health issues. How do you think the stigma attached to the mental health can be done away with?
The advent of pandemic was surely something we had all seen coming, but its repercussions were far beyond our anticipation. The fear of the pandemic spread across the country even before the virus could. This fear caused people from all sections of society to panic, feel anxious, and feel trapped. I say trapped because we, as result of the lockdowns imposed, were made to stay at home — a measure rightly taken by the authorities to ensure maximum safety. However, since we are so used to socialising, it did not sit well with our way of life.
The outcome of this was recurring conflicts in families, existential crises, and insecurities about the future as nobody had an idea about what was about to happen next. The uncertainty of the “new normal” ever becoming normal was what, in fact, made us feel scared and perplexed. Hence, the law and police fraternity faced many challenges as they had to deal with the dualities of their personal and professional challenges caused by the pandemic.
An apt example of this is the rapid rise in the cases related to domestic violence or sexual abuse during lockdown. Every day we were coming across cases that were arising out of household conflicts. So while I definitely feel that the pandemic had a great impact on the law fraternity, I also think that the right amount of awareness about the same and the means to address these concerns can help us eradicate the problem. Lack of knowledge about something is what makes us feel fearful of it. We have to start talking about issues related to mental health and generate more support lines for people in need so as to not make them feel alone and left out.
9. Is there any chapter in your life where you felt that it is high time that people should start talking about the mental health issues?
Throughout my professional journey, almost every case that I have come across has at least one or more emotional aspects attached to it. The reason for this is we as humans sometimes fall prey to our emotions and make impulsive decisions that have negative repercussions. Being a part of the judicial fraternity, sometimes we get tangled in a mental dilemma. We struggle between the intent and the action. Such challenges are faced by lawyers and Judges on a regular basis in their career.
I always understood this as I had experienced situations like these myself when I was at an earlier stage of my career. At that time, it was even tougher because there was not much awareness about issues related to mental health. But in recent times, things have changed for the better. So, when I was elevated as the Judge and I saw the struggles from both sides of the spectrum, I thought it was the right time for me to advocate for mental health awareness to help those suffering and ensure that they are heard and understood and their issues are addressed.
10. Do you think we have enough support system to tackle the situation and how important is the support from the family in dealing with mental health issues and can there be a safety net?
Mental health institutions and other related organisations are constantly and consciously working towards improving the state of awareness on the topic. The problem that we face is the fact that people are not aware about the fact that help exists. We think it will be expensive, or take effort, or consume a lot of our energy, when actually their untreated illness is already causing them to feel this mental discomfort. While I do think that family plays a crucial role in helping the authorities determine individuals who are going through issues related to mental health, more often than not, mental health sufferers usually refrain from expressing their problems to even their closest family members. This is because they feel alone and at the same time do not want to seem vulnerable. Therefore, the best way to tackle the situation is just by spreading as much awareness about it as possible, and by being patient, empathetic, and sensitive towards people struggling with it.
11. Please share your thoughts for the young generation struggling with mental health and at the same time trying to achieve a name in the legal fraternity.
I think the right way to cope with mental health, and approach your career in the field of law is by gaining information about it as much as you can. It is not wrong when they say knowledge is power, because it indeed is. You cannot become successful in any field if you lack the zeal to learn. Students or budding lawyers should read biographies of eminent jurists and learn from their experiences.
The next generation must understand that while they cannot completely erase the problem, they can find a way to cope with it. Delays in reaching the court owing to traffic, the unavailability of support personnel, Senior Counsels not being accessible, and client-imposed deadlines are all part of the everyday issues for which the young practitioners must acquire resilience so that it does not affect their mental health.
Another recommendation that I would make is that one must have a peer group where at least the members can voice out their concerns, issues and insecurities. This would go a long way in acknowledging and addressing each other’s problems. Once the malady is diagnosed, the cure is half done.
12. We at SCC are trying to spread awareness about mental health. How do you think we as part of the legal profession or just even as part of society contribute to help reduce stigma around mental health?
Awareness of mental health is a crucial need of the hour. I appreciate the efforts that your platform has put in to spread awareness for the same. The more the discussion, the less the stigma attached to it. The first part of the problem is solved once the problem is acknowledged. The challenge that exists today is that most people do not treat it as an issue. Raising awareness will encourage the society to empathetically understand the issues and help the persons who are struggling. It is the responsibility of the Bar Associations and Bar Councils to push for institutional reforms and take measures that improve the mental health of the members of the fraternity. Appointing counsellors is a must so that the persons in need of care have regular access to counselling. One day every month can be designated as Mental Health Awareness Day, with specialists hosting lectures and awareness sessions with ICT (information-communication-technology) tools to raise awareness.