[4/17, 09:05] Vijayaragan Mhc Advt: Musings At Law-XXIV
That inimitable Mr. Habibullah Badsha, let it be known to the Bench with his customary cunning and dexterity in euphemistic submissions, with Government officials in tow and attendance, that Sampath was arrested under a provision which was bailable, as the orders were not under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. The Bench latched on to this opening and Sampath was the only one who got released by an order of Court pan India, those dark days. Thereinafter, the implementation of the law was made more stringent and fundamental rights were suspended emboldening Niren De, Attorney General to say, “No man had a right to his life even if he was shot” in the famous ADM Jabalpur case, before the apex court. And shamefully, which argument found receptivity at the hands of Judges, with a solitary exception in H R Khanna. We know where H R Khanna stands among the pantheon of Judges and where the others who acquiesced in it, stand condemned to.
Sampathkumaar was always receptive to advice. Castor Oil may be easy to administer to others, and difficult to administer to oneself, but Sampathkumaar was unique. He had the knack of seeking advices and in abundance. He always said unless one admitted one’s limitations, one can never rise to potential. If you knew your limitation, you knew where you stood and would unhesitatingly approach others for ‘advice’. It is a truism that none needs advice more than a lawyer, he said. Sane and sound advice is just a telephone call away, he always said.
His ability to tackle the sudden turn of events was matchless. One recalls the instance of the typo in pleading in a writ petition “It is therefore prayed that this HORRIBLE Court may be pleased to….” instead of HONOURABLE. It so happened that the writ petition was to come up before a learned Judge, a tough cookie at the best of times. So Sampath was in for double trouble, with such pleadings. As events turned out, the learned Judge was not sitting that day. The writ petition listed for the day got shifted to Mr. Justice K S Bhaktavatsalam. As soon as Sampath got up, the learned Judge queried, “Mr. Sampathkumaar, for how long have you had this view of this Court?” I had already apprised him of this bloomer, in the typing. Without batting an eyelid, Sampath submitted, “Mi Lord would know why this writ is before this Court. It is not meant for your Lordship, certainly”.
The learned Judge was beside himself and even before the entire Court was taken into confidence, on what had transpired, Sampath’s client had the benefit of the order he was seeking. I wonder whether a re-enactment of this scene today would attract a similar response. Sigh!
Sampath had an uncanny knack, of his own, even while seeking a simple adjournment. He never ever antagonized the Judges while availing postponement of hearing or would cringe either. An Original Side Appeal (OSA) was listed before a Bench presided over by Mr. Justice Prabha Shankar Mishra. It was a ticklish issue of substance looked forward to by the bankers, as it could have wide and national ramifications on their lending schemes. Sampath was not ready. Aid and assistance from sidelines, while rushing to Court, was not sufficient to pursue the cause. But he was aware that the appeal was on board, as the first cause, and the Bench would have come fully prepared, over the week end, and may reject any request for adjournment. In any case, for a Senior as he, it may be embarrassing to say that he ‘was not ready’, in a cause up his own alley. As he entered the Court Hall No.4, it was 10.45 a.m. and running late. The Judges came and sat only thereafter. As the first item was called, Sampath got up, “Mi Lords, my colleague (he always addressed the juniors as colleagues in public and Raja in private) says that I always come to the office at 10.45 a.m. but somehow manage to come to Court at 10.30 a.m. for the first case….”
Justice P S Mishra, “We are sorry Counsel, we should have apologised for the late sitting. We can see what you are hinting at. But don’t you know there was a legitimate reason for it?” Sampath, “Mi Lords, I’m sorry, my submission was not to extract an apology. It was to highlight the reason for the delayed sitting. I am aware that there was a bomb scare in Court and even sniffer dogs were brought to Court, before clearance was given, for the sitting. That is not my worry. These physical bomb scares are easy to handle. Now, in this case, there is a plaint, written statement, documents on either side, and 3 witnesses on either side as well. There is then a judgment of the learned Judge followed by Grounds of Appeal. But before Your Lordships, one is apprehensive that a Bombshell may come, not linked to any of them, but from a totally independent and alien issue, hitherto hidden but relevant nevertheless. That….” Justice Mishra, “Mr. Sampathkumaar, coming to the point, are we to take it that you are not ready to get along?” Sampath, “Yes, Mi Lord.”
Justice Mishra, “Good for you and us too. We have in fact identified such an issue that appears to have been lost sight of, by either counsel and the Court, but for which evidence is on record, and may need to be considered for a wholesome resolution. When do you want the appeal to be listed? We would like to have it next week? What about you?” Sampath, “Any day, subject to your Lordships convenience”. Superb talent. When adjournment is the rule nowadays, for some of us, can we ever camouflage and strategise our request. Phew!
He was known for his Court appearances and ability to guide the Judge to his point of view. But he always opined that the art of good advocacy lay not in ability to win a cause for a client, in a court of law. But it lay in the ability of the advocate to properly advise the client in pursuit of the cause, even without the compulsion of having to litigate for the relief. He used to always say that there was a vital distinction between the western ethos and eastern ethos approach to advocacy. He said, “In India, the advocates are trained/ convinced that the clients would cough up ‘proper fee’, only if the advocate took the cause to Court. The client would be unwilling to compensate the advocate suitably, if the cause was ‘settled’ out of Court. Whereas the reverse was true, in the West. Advices, enabling clients to compromise out of Court, rather than being constrained to be taken to Court, are highly valued in the West, and compensated for far more, as the cost of litigation in the West was huge.” This thinking led him to believe that his clients’ causes deserved a resolution rather than the litigation route.
How can this write-up be complete without that episode involving a cheeky Mr. Sampathkumaar? He was defending the editor and publisher of a true blue yellow journal, who was suo motu hauled up for contempt of court, for publishing that a few named judges of the High Court, were guilty of illegal gratification. The suo motu Contempt Petition got listed before……
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)
[4/17, 09:10] Sekarreporter 1: Super sir🌹🌹🌹