Skip to content
Musings At Law Epilogue-II Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan I can see it my mind’s eye, even at this distance, and relish the moment. The seniormost among them said, “Mi Lord is absolutely right. It was unbecoming of our counterparts, to endorse no objection in the IA for impleading. It is shameful conduct. All of us have agreed that the endorsements may be treated as recalled and IA heard on merits based on the counter filed by the bank”.
Musings At Law Epilogue-II Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan I can see it my mind’s eye, even at this distance, and relish the moment. The seniormost among them said, “Mi Lord is absolutely right. It was unbecoming of our counterparts, to endorse no objection in the IA for impleading. It is shameful conduct. All of us have agreed that the endorsements may be treated as recalled and IA heard on merits based on the counter filed by the bank”. Judge, “I have a better suggestion. Are all you Senior Advocates appearing for free in this CRP? I am sure you are not, and you are under no compulsion either. I agree. Just add the fees that you would all be charging and hand it over the defendant borrower, so that he can repay a major portion of the suit claim. I suppose that would be the fairest consequence, for such a horrendous order.” No one knew whether the Judge was serious or sarcastic and cynical, as he is wont to. I could sense that he was furious that 22 Senior Advocates chose to appear and all together, in a ‘simple and stupid CRP’ as he called it. Judge, “The young man was forced to take 25 copies of the papers, one for himself, and rest for you. Once you had gone through the papers, not even one of you thought that it was not a fit case for your appearance, but that for a junior advocate. What did you come to defend here? I am going to allow the CRP and set aside the orders impleading the 22 defendants with costs payable to the young man, appearing for the plaintiff bank. That alone would be poetic justice.” I innocently got up and said, “Mi Lord, the costs your Lordships is imposing, may also be kindly added to the fees of the Senior Advocates, to set off at least a part of the dues to the plaintiff bank.” Judge : “My god, what a nonsensical fellow you must be. You believed that I would ask the Senior Advocates to part with their fees. Imagine me passing such an order. There would be resolutions passed condemning my conduct, for intervening in the professional practices of advocates. There may be a strike too. Who knows? Sorry, young man, even the cost, I am imposing, you may never realise. It will remain an order on paper. It is to my eternal satisfaction, and would be of little practical value.” It was not as if the Judges in the past, were all brilliant and scholarly. Or that they were all imbued with honesty and integrity, as if it was in their DNA. Every generation has its mix and a Harvard University research paper suggests that the ‘millenials today could possibly be the most brilliant generation of all times.” Of course, there was and could be no research on the values in life. We had some of the cleverest judges, playing favourites and tweaking the orders to fit their option. Law took a back seat. But, law is a leveller. There were judges in the hierarchy, above, who ‘knew’ more about these characters than we in the legal fraternity could ever. Corridor talk, which our first Attorney General Motilal Setalvad said, “was always true”, is not confined to the lawyers’ alone. I shall conclude this Epilogue and these ‘Musings At Law’, with a perfect anecdote, which captures the good, bad and ugly, facets, which have always been present in the Judiciary, then, before, now and possibly remain with us forever, too. Lawyers and Judges do not fall from heaven. They reflect the society and its standards, at large, and that is eternally true, and shall ever remain so. Once, when I got up and submitted before Chief Justice M S Liberhan and another, “Mi Lords, this is an appeal against the judgment of the learned single judge Mr. Justice….” Chief Justice: “Counsel, that is an excellent ground of appeal for admitting the appeal and granting interim order also.” Hence, nub of truth lies somewhere in between, as it always shall. That was at the intellectual reach. That is not the anecdote. It was an aside of sorts. The Musing related to a writ petition which was heard before the 3rd Court. The Judge was possibly the smartest one going, and whether he read the papers or not, within minutes, he would be off the starting blocks, to pass the order that would ‘be on his ticker tape mind in a flash’, as he once told me in private. He confessed to me, when I asked him on the metaphysical context of a decision- that he could begin with a mind to dismiss or allow, and shift allegiances by the sweep of his felicity of expression, to arrive at a contra result. Both convincing, to himself included. That is the magnificent or ugly side of law, as you will. In that writ petition before the said Judge, my Senior urged three specific grounds, we had raised in a challenge to a government order. The other side was represented by a Senior Advocate, who the corridor always claimed was on ‘friendlier terms than most others’ with this judge. The order read, “I have heard the counsel for petitioner in extenso. Despite my protestations, the counsel continued to urge that it was a fit case for admission and grant of interim stay. I did not agree. The counsel argued on just one ground and he made it clear that he was not pursuing any other, and so it be recorded. The said ground on a plain reading, fails miserably, and therefore the writ petition deserves a quick and decent burial, which it gets from this court.” We filed an appeal, which was listed before Chief Justice M N Chandurkar and Justice M Srinivasan. I appeared for the appellant, as my senior had filed his personal affidavit, “With utmost embarrassment and higher respect, I am compelled to submit that the extract in the order by the learned single judge, a senior Judge of this Court, who knows me well, and as well as I know him, is plain and simple wrong. It is not a mistake but an intentional one. I raised three grounds. I argued all three. I submitted that even if the ‘one ground’, on which the learned single judge confined the petitioner to, and dismissed the writ petition was wobbly, the other two grounds I urged, were on surer footing. To put it, as humbly as I could, and with all the respect I have, for this institution at my command, to suggest that only one ground was argued, as is recorded, to put it mildly is inexactitude. My client ought not to suffer the consequences of the order, for no fault of theirs. I have never before in my 30 years of practice, been compelled, to file such an affidavit. I hope and trust that it may be the only one, I am constrained to file, in such peculiar circumstances. I would humbly submit that this affidavit may kindly be read as part of the grounds of appeal, constituting the primary ground in this appeal. The other side advocate was privy to what transpired, and I am ready to subject myself to cross examination, if he so pleases. I apologise for filing this affidavit, but I cannot be seen to forsake the interests of my client, at the expediency of my professional practice”. Even before I opened my submission, Chief Justice: “Counsel, please ask your senior to be present at 14.15 hrs today. We are passing it over.” My Senior came rushing to the first court. Chief Justice: “Counsel, we are sorry at what happened to such a senior practitioner as you. Heaven help the junior members of the bar, and it raises serious doubts on the sanctity of the contents of a court order. The contents of an order of a judge of the constitutional court, for that matter, of any judge of a court, can never come under the scanner, for its very truth and integrity. That would be a very sad day in Judiciary. The other side counsel has confirmed the veracity of your averments. The least we can do to protect this institution, is to admit this appeal and grant interim stay. But, after returning the affidavit filed by you. It shall not remain as part of the court, as it would be a blot on this institution. We can do no more than apologise for how things have come to this pass. We join you in hoping that such affidavits are not required any time in the future too, in this hallowed institution. It would be such a shame.” What a lesson in safeguarding the pristine purity of the institution! Incidentally, the writ appeal got allowed, on the ‘two other grounds’ which my senior had urged, but was recorded to have not argued at all. Let us leave it there. When Lord Mansfield talked of ‘those good old days’ in the 17th century, and Eardley Norton wrote to Sadagopachariar, in Jan,1920 ‘ on falling standards in the profession’, it would be presumptuous of me, to suggest that these Musings also be added to that genre. These Musings were meant to communicate nothing of the kind, least of all to bemoan. I leave it to the conscience call of each one of us, including the lawyer and the judge, as they choose or chose to read it for, in serving the Blind Lady of Justice. Au Revoir. (Concluded) (Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)
You may also like... CALL ME