It has been nothing less than an honour for all of us to have been attached with the office of Justice Deepak Gupta. In our tenure we have gotten to learn immensely from him, not just about law but also about being a good person. He never let there be a divide between us and him, and never let us feel intimidated by him. Sir always welcomed our opinions which more often than not, could naturally not match the learned opinions of a Supreme Court Judge. However, he always valued our opinions, accepted them and discussed with us if we did not agree on an issue. In these little ways, and many more, he helped us grow.
His work ethic and determination to do better for the society and the institution motivated us to do better with every case, every judgment, and every speech that we have worked on with him. Seeing him work tirelessly, 7 days a week even towards the end of his judicial career motivated all of us to work twice as hard. With every case file we took to his desk, he took out extra time to clear our doubts even when there was extra work-load for him. From our very first day till our very last at the Office, not one day has felt like we are far away from home. The environment he created for us at the office made it feel like home.
His life is an experience from which there is so much to learn and it shall be the guiding light for our career. He never let us compromise with our hobbies, personal commitments and encouraged us to travel whenever we got the chance. We shared our love for food along with law and any conversation could become a discussion about restaurants to try and places to visit for food. In fact, when a couple of us had planned a short trip, he sat us down and gave us tips for everything to do over there. However, our trip got cancelled because of the ensuing pandemic and he turned out to be more disappointed than any of us.
His dog Silly, who was rescued by Punam ma'am while he was serving as the Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, was the star of our office till quite recently when she left all of us for her heavenly abode. During our tenure, we managed to rescue a puppy and a kitten near the office, and on both occasions he helped us in looking after them. Through each small little act, we got a glimpse of the big compassionate heart that has always guided Justice Gupta to make the world around him a better place.
His love for nature is evident not only in his judgments but also through his photography and in the beautiful garden maintained by ma'am and him. The garden made for a rather breathtaking view from the Law Clerks' room for our sore eyes on days when we had to endlessly wait for files to arrive. During winters we could sit in the garden and work while soaking the sun with Silly next to us. He would often come back from court and spend time in the garden with his plants. In fact he would very fondly tell us about his Orchard in Himachal, and always gave us juicy apples to enjoy whenever there was a harvest. His enthusiasm for his hobbies has shown us that one can always take moments in life to appreciate the things around them and follow their passion, no matter how busy life gets. He always ensured that we had a pleasant environment to work in. There were days when he knew it was impossible to submit written briefs for the number of cases listed before him. He would sit with us and we would discuss each matter listed the next day from the office report. During these discussions, as juniors, we would always wonder if we'll ever be able to do complete justice to his teachings.
One of the first things one sees when they enter Justice Gupta's office is the poem "Where the Mind is Without Fear" by Rabindranath Tagore hanging on the wall facing his chair. It is no wonder that fearlessness, sense of self dignity, zeal to fight back against prejudices and superstitions, endeavour to find the truth, rational and logical thinking, open mindedness, independence of thought and action- all the values that the poem stands for, are reflected not only in his judgments and speeches but even in his daily mundane acts. Undaunted by his surroundings, he always emphasized on doing the right thing and taught us to never give up in any endeavour. It is what we strive for on a daily basis. As this great learning experience for us comes to an end with his retirement, we can just hope that we do justice to these values propagated by him.
Every now and then, he would tell us stories of his days as a young lawyer, or about his time as a Judge in the three High Courts that he served. His stories would not just teach us something new about the law, but would also have us leave his chamber with a new life lesson. Now that we have time to reflect and look back, Justice Gupta has mentored all of us, not by imposing his teachings, but through his life. Even when we faltered, he would sit us down and explain things to us and teach us how to do better.
His presence in the office was one like Robin Williams' character (Mr. John Keating) in Dead Poets Society. His doors were always open for us and he welcomed all of our queries and opinions with an open mind. We could walk into the chamber with problems relating to law or our personal life and always depend on him for helping out in any way possible.
"No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."
The famous words of Mr. Keating in the movie were applicable to our everyday life at the office. With each judgment, speech or article that he worked on, he involved us in the process and encouraged our suggestions. Having been mentored by someone whose ideas and words have helped change the world and make our society a better place, we can only hope to emulate the same undying compassion and resolve to help those around us. We'd like to end by thanking him for allowing us to learn from him. Lessons learnt from him will guide us for years to come.
Views Are Personal Only.
(Authors are Law Clerks-cum-Research Assistants attached to HMJ Deepak Gupta)