Bitter Sweet: Court Stories

Written by  //  August 28, 2011  //  Law & The Judiciary  //  1 Comment

[A guest post by Anuj]

Like all professions, I suppose, the legal one has its shares of ups and downs. There are instances which leave this ugly, foul taste in your mouth and then there are some which will have you smiling every single time you remember them. There are some memories which will never leave you no matter how much you try to erase them and there some memories which will haunt you for a very long time. I like to think of advocacy as a bittersweet profession. And these are some of my bitter sweet memories:

One

I am in one of the courts on the fifth floor of the (relatively) new Saket District Court Complex. Much like the rest of Saket, the court too is pretty hep (or ‘haap hai ji’ as it is pronounced in Delhi).

I am here for a cheque bouncing matter commonly called a “138 matter” named so after Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act of 1881. It is another thing that punishment under the relevant code is actually under Section 139 but no one likes a geek so I won’t argue any further.

It is a typically vexatious complaint and my clients have been forced to come all the way from Chennai.  Six of them; apparently they have retired from the company which issued the cheque and are unfairly arrayed as the accused. They are standing besides me and I can almost smell their nervousness.

I am vaguely aware of what it is that needs to be done since this is one of the first matters that Boss directed me to handle on my own. Usually he sends his friend along to make sure that someone can supervise (read prevent me from making a massive screw up). But this time there is no one. You could call it a phenomenal leap of faith on the Boss’s part.

The judge sits exactly at ten, which automatically made me like him. He is a distinctly North Indian looking person: fair, sharp features. Fairly young man who seems slightly indifferent to all that is going around him. I had appeared before the same judge on the last date, filing exemption applications for nearly all the accused. He did not seem too perturbed at that time either.

He peers at the file before him, probably looking at the memo of parties. Wants to make sure that the accused are present.

“Mr. K Sun…..dar………shani?”, calls out the janaab sahib.

Mr. Sundareshan raises his right hand in acknowledgment.

“Mr. C. Cha………vet………esh……….ra?”

It is clear that North Indian J. is not too comfortable with the longish names of my southern countrymen.

Mr. Chaveteshar raises his right hand in acknowledgment.

“Mr. A. Ven…ka…………aah……Venkaa…….

The judge takes a deep breath and I can see him try and mouth the name silently.

“Mr. A. Venkaa……..chiii…..”

Silence

“Accused No.6?”

I tell Accused No.6 that the judge is referring to him. He also raises his hand. I want to burst out laughing. I really do; visions of Jabaan Sambhaal Ke floating in my head.

The judge does not bother reading out the rest of the names; they are all called Accused No. so-and-so and I inform each of the clients in turn. They all raise their hands one by one. I suppose, in their tense state of mind, they refuse to see the funny part.

And even as I tell the clients what happened in the court and what is to be expected next, I am dying with laughter inside. Once they are away, I laugh. I just laugh. Big, silly grin plastered all over my face as I walk out of court and inform the Boss of what happened.

-xxx-xxx-xxx-

Two

No other building has reminded me more of the TV show “Crystal Maze” than the District Court of Karkardooma. Haphazardly numbered court rooms, multiple flights of stairs all seemingly leading to the same floor, mixed levels of lighting and of course that general scheme of disarray which most government offices acquire over the years.

It is a divorce matter, second motion (second motion, where the divorce decree is actually granted tends to be a bit of a formality and nothing more). I am alone once again since Boss does not want to travel all the way for a mere second motion.

My client is standing behind me. In her mid-thirties, clutching her bag nervously while janaab sahib goes through the file. They were married for just about three years. No children (thank god!).

The judge finishes going through the file and looks at her, eyes peering above his spectacles.

“What do you do?”

“I work……. in a private company…”. She is stuttering, partly because of fear and partly because of sadness. A lot of people become nervous while speaking before judges. Lawyers and laymen alike.

“So you want to get a divorce”

Silence.

“Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

“Sir….we tried….Even after the first motion….we tried……but…now…..there is no chance of settlement…..it is just not possible….I want…….I want to move on with my life.”  She is nearly sobbing at the end of the sentence.

“Eh?”, the judge looks at me questioningly.

Janaab she wants to move on with her life.” I answer. I am certain that at that point of time I had no inkling of the gravity of that matter. I was merely doing my job; there was no emotion behind it at all.

There is barely a reaction on his face. What he thought or felt at that moment is something that I failed to fathom that day. Or at any point of time thereafter. Was he actually hesitating to pass the decree? Would he think twice before signing a slip of paper that legally terminated a supposedly life-long institution? Or was he just hard of hearing and actually did not hear what my sobbing client had to say? I will never know.

“All right. Decree passed. Come after three days and collect the certified copy.”

And the next matter is called out.

-xxx-xxx-xxx-

I don’t call it bittersweet for nothing.

One Comment on "Bitter Sweet: Court Stories"

  1. Alok August 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm ·

    Great read Anuj! Hope to read more from you on Delhi’s trial courts!

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