‘Can We Not Do Better?’ [Part-III] By R.Basant, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court]
Like a school boy I am waiting for my court to reopen. I took the first available flight after the courts closed on the 9th of May to Calicut and am waiting for the flight on the 1st of July to take me back to Delhi to be there to welcome the new judicial year at the Supreme Court.
Let me confess. This Senior citizen has not done much of updation, research or work during the vacation. The weather in Kerala has been fine and it was great to be with family and friends. But such lazy times compel you to introspect---to have a dialogue with yourself.
Law, I would like to continue to believe, is the noblest of all professions. Axiomatically all lawyers are expected to be gentlemen. The best of gentlemen among us, at least fictionally, are called to join the bench. If they know some law also, they will certainly make wonderful judges.
Gentlemen are certainly conscious, and a little sensitive too, about the language that they use and the courtesies in behaviour that they display. Walk through the 13 or 14 courts in the Supreme Court and assess whether we can claim to be good species of gentlemen worth our salt.
As a junior to my great Senior, Advocate K.Bhaskaran Nair of Calicut we were told and taught that the court must always be addressed respectfully and courteously. Forget about the incumbent in the chair, your respect and courtesy is to be shown to the chair. No "you"s in court. " The learned Judge" and "my learned brother" only in court. We were also assured that we will be referred to, and are entitled to be referred to, as the "learned counsel" by the learned brothers and even by the learned Judges. Come what may, you should not raise your decibel levels in court except where the majesty of the court is at stake. Never interrupt a learned counsel. You will get your chance. You can put across your point and point out the mistaken or erroneous submissions only when your turn comes. These words of my late Senior reverberate in my ears even now.
Reminded of these you walk through the court halls in the Supreme Court you are bound to get disappointed and frustrated too.
The number of "you"s travelling across the bar both ways and laterally is shocking and disappointing. The raising of decibel levels is irritating. Interruptions galore. Do not be totally surprised even if you were to hear words like "shut up", "bloody" or "nonsense" in court.
Time to pause and ponder!!!!. To be worthy inheritors of the legacy of the noblest of all professions, we-- the bar and the bench, do have to engage ourselves in some real soul searching.
A young lawyer in Library 2 with an expression of defiance--- an expression of "what does this old man know about this court" told me "This is a court of prejudice. You have to make use of the first opportunity to prejudice the court against your opponent. So interruption is also part of advocacy."
I can only say that we have wittingly or unwittingly put the wrong ideas into our young ones. The earlier we dispel such wrong impressions from the minds of our young ones, the better for the system.
I was indeed thrilled during one of the last weeks before closure to hear a learned judge of the Supreme Court taking objection to the entrenched practice in the Supreme court of the lawyers repeating ad nauseum "Greatly obliged" to the bench. "This court is only doing its duty-- not obliging any one, and does not want anyone to be obliged to it", said the learned judge.
Semantics do betray attitudes also. Whenever I hear a court dismissing a case with a "Sorry" to the counsel I say within myself "Please be proud and happy to show the door to an unmerited petition. Never be sorry to do that" May be that the judge is only trying to be courteous to the counsel. But still the semantics !!!
Notice or admission, we have to convince our young ones is not, and cannot be, an indulgence of the bench to the bar. No case can walk into the court. It must earn its place in court by its merits. Once we convince our self about this, expressions like "Greatly obliged" and "Sorry" may exit from our courts.
The first court must be a role model for the others in the country. It must be the best and the model of perfection. Hence heavier is the burden on our shoulders. Let us accept this and resolve to do better when we reopen. We certainly can do that.