Wednesday, August 16, 2006

FOR THE LOVE OF THEMIS

This article describes the conditions of the law courts in the country. Themis is the Greek goddess of justice. She is blindfolded and has a pair of scales in one hand and a sword in the other.


What films are to Bombay, law is to Allahabad. Despite the University’s reputation for churning out civil servants, law is Allahabad’s best industry. It has produced some of the best legal minds in the country. Allahabad has a High Court, Board of Revenue, a District Court, Labour Courts, a Sales Tax Tribunal, and Income Tax Tribunal, and a Services Tribunal. You think of a court and Allahabad has got it. I still wonder how come the Supreme Court was established in Delhi.1

Every alternate house in Allahabad is a house of a lawyer or a judge. The ‘legal’ ethos is omnipresent. But alas- it is conservative. Despite giving Amitabh Bachchan to the nation, one never sees a boy and a girl walking hand in hand. What a pity - Love affairs are still regarded as scandalous. And as far fashion? Allahabad is still a village. Nothing new happens here. It was and it still is a sleeping town. But one place in Allahabad never slept: the law courts. If you went to the courts, you heard the best; juniors better than the seniors. The activity was brisk. But all that is now gone. Something is amiss. There is a crowd, but nothing seems to happens.

The High Court is busy doing admission and order cases. There is no time for final hearing. One has even forgotten its spelling. I hope I got it right. If one has a fresh case then one is busy. May be the fresh case will take only two minutes, but one has to wait at least for two hours.

Lawyers are not idle. They are busy. But busy with what? Almost all the lawyers spend their time from ten to four without uttering a word. What a waste! Imagine lawyers spending all their time not in arguing, but just waiting for the case to be taken up. And seldom are they taken up.

It is not that the High Court does not function. It does. Yet the net result is zero. It is frustrating. Well, maddening too. If one side has a stay, it is difficult to get it vacated. You spend a lifetime getting a case listed and another getting the matter taken up. The stay order is invariably left to the final hearing, which rarely happens.

There are insufficient chambers for the lawyers. There is no place to sit and work. One has to roam in the corridors. Soon that will also end. There will be no place in the corridors. The population explosion has hit the High court also.

The Lawyers are in courts from ten to four. But they do nothing. Yet they cannot leave the court, because they have to watch their ‘sleeping cases’ No lawyer can afford to take the risk of leaving the courts, for if the case is left out, it is passed over for years. This is true not only for the courts in Allahabad, but for all the courts of the country.

It was Charles Dickens in Bleak House who had said ,
‘This is a court of Chancery-which so exhausts finances, patience, hope.'
In this century it has been repeated by Lord Denning, ‘Law’s delays... have lasted so long as to turn justice sour' (Allen Vs Alfred McAlpine 1968(1) AllER 543) This is so true for our courts.

The lawyers earn good money, but they have to spend a lifetime in the courts. Is this the way to serve ‘Themis’? Is this the purpose of life? Does anyone have any other suggestions except the one, to fill-up at least all vacancies that were never filled for all these years except for a short time when the Janata Party was in power?

I often wonder if the solution is that simple. If it is so, then why the hell does it strike everyone except the government. And secondly all lawyers should go to hell and so should the judges. In any case that is the place where they all finally land up. At least all the lawyers do. I being one can vouch for it.2



1Many narrate a story. One does not know if it is true or mere fancy. According to it the Supreme Court was to be established in Allahabad. Pandit Nehru wanted it. But Mrs Kania preferred Delhi. Nehru reluctantly agreed. After all her husband was the 1st Chief Justice of India.

2This piece was written many years ago when I was a lawyer. Since the publication of the 1st edition, I have become the permanent Judge of the Allahabad High Court.

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