In pursuit of law

Despite Bharara’s disdain for Indian legal system, there is something positive about it.

Recently my wife and I spent a day in a court to give moral support to a close relative. That experience stirred memories of my unfulfilled desire to become a legal eagle. Regrettably, I ended up becoming a more mundane mechanical engineer.

After I graduated from Enid Blyton, my early teens brought me in touch with Perry Mason, the lawyer character created by Erle Stanley Gardner. I devoured all his books and even contemplated pursuing law as a career. I used to be fascinated by Mason’s courtroom strategy and practiced saying in front of the mirror, “Objection on the grounds that it is irrelevant, immaterial and incompetent.” His repartee with the District Attorney, Hamilton Burger was very enjoyable.

 I later encountered Henry Cecil’s books that drew on the quirks of the British legal system in a humorous way. Now, of course, John Grisham is the flavor of the season. In my TV viewing schedule the raving and ranting anchors and panelists on the 9.00 pm news have lost the contest for my eyeballs as I prefer watching “Boston Legal”.

However, during those student days my access to law was restricted to scenes from Bollywood films. I was not sure whether the screen shots actually reflected the real proceedings in a courtroom. It was thrilling to watch Sunil Dutt as a lawyer defending Raaj Kumar in “Waqt” mouthing “Objection Milord”.  I understand that lawyers are no longer required to address the judge with that honorific. Invariably the camera would pan to the blindfolded statue of justice or the judge would bang his gavel and call out “order, order”. I also wondered whether a judge needed to break  the nib of his pen after passing a death sentence as shown in several movies.

Coming back to my visit to a Bangalore court, I was a bit disappointed that there was no fanfare when the court began. It was pretty matter of fact. Our lawyer turned up late and we missed our turn when the relative’s name was announced. This meant that we had to sit inside till it was almost lunchtime. My wife was admonished by a court attendant for sitting with her legs crossed, a strict no-no in court etiquette. We whiled away our time till the afternoon hearing.

One case was rather interesting because it involved cross examination by the defendant’s advocate. The legal luminary was straight out of a Hindi film.  A young woman was in the witness box. Our man would sarcastically ask her a leading question and when she fumbled with the answer he would gaze triumphantly at all of us sitting on the benches at the rear of the room. This time, I was chastised by an official for talking loudly when the session was in progress. Luckily, our case came up for hearing soon and the judgment was favourable.

Despite Preet Bharara’s open disdain for the Indian legal system, there is something positive to be said,too. Yes,it may be time consuming. In fact, there are over 30 million cases pending in Indian courts. But, eventually justice gets delivered, thanks to the well laid out procedures that have stood the test of time.

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