Some of you will feel that the question is a meaningless one. For example, those of you who had to face the indignity of dealing with one or more Indian lawyers or the extreme misery and frustration of trying to find justice through Indian courts (Please also read ‘The Great Indian Judicial Circus’), will point out that no questions need to be asked; Indian lawyers are gods and devils rolled into one and have every right to behave like gods.
Then there are others who would tell you that the sobriquet “gods” is reserved for Indian cricketers, politicians and religious leaders and that lawyers, even if they are gods, are very much lower down the order.
In the recent Kangana Ranaut film ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’, there is this character called Arun “Chintu” Kumar Singh played by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub who is a law student and about to become an advocate. Armed with the knowledge of law that can make others lives miserable, he is an illegal lodger with Tanu (Kangana Ranaut’s) parents in Kanpur. He refuses to either pay rent or leave with the street-smartness that he has acquired from his study of the Indian law.
Is that the true face of the Indian lawyer? Actually it is much worse. It is almost like the dacoit Gabbar Singh in the 1975 movie Sholay with his now famous dialogue: “Gabbar Singh se tumhen ek hi aadmi bacha sakta hai; woh hai khud Gabbar Singh” (Only one person can save you from Gabbar Singh; that is Gabbar Singh himself). Our advocate of 14 years, who made my widowed mother run from pillar to post, dropped our case altogether (by pleading “no instructions” in the court and hence warrants of arrest were issued for me!) only because I inquired from him about the progress of the cases. As per the Bar Council of India Rules, I filed a complaint against him for Professional Misconduct. I was called all the way from Mumbai to Shimla for a hearing by the H.P. Bar Council only to inform me that the case had been decided against me in my absence! The Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council chided me for having spent Rupees 20000 for coming to Shimla whereas for half that much money I could have commissioned a lawyer to handle my complaint!
It is almost universal in India that litigants have waited for decades for their cases to be resolved. How is it that in court after court in India, no one realises that no one, other than them are interested in solving the cases. The employment of lawyers, judges and the courts staff is actually dependent upon delaying the cases. There is nil incentive for any of them to expeditiously solve the cases.
The fact is that in the Indian judicial system, the judges are not accountable for their acts of commission or omission. An act of commission or omission by them can cause you untold misery and/or delay. The only remedy available is to appeal in the next higher court. This means that now you will have to face more such judges and more such lawyers! And hence, you would realise why Gabbar Singh analogy is so apt.
Because the judges are not accountable, the lawyers assume such unaccountability themselves. They brushes his hands off everything you suffer by saying that the “system is bad; what can we do?”
To top it, in case you are a fauji (armed forces personnel) or ex fauji, everyone chides you for not being well versed with the intricacies of the civil society and the “system“. None of them take notice of the irrefutable fact that whilst we have some of the best armed forces in the world, we have one of the worst judicial and legal system in the world. They are still arrogant about their superiority (translated it means the ability to keep you at their mercy).
As citizens of the country we often fall prey to joining media orchestrated and politically motivated agitations about corruption at higher places. There is never a public outcry about everyday corruption and efficiency that affect us; eg, the ones we are subjected to by lawyers, judges, policemen, railway conductors, hospital and electricity officials and the like. Life loses its dignity altogether but we keep quiet.
A French man in IC 814, the infamous flight that got hijacked to Kandhar on 24th Dec 1999, observed that Indians in the flight appeared to have lot of patience to go through more than 60 hours of abject misery. That’s a reflection on us. We are like that only (Read ‘We Are Like That Only’). We are quite alright with the corrupt and most inefficient system. An odd person like me who voices concern is straightway dubbed as “out of reality” because he is a “bloody fauji” who hasn’t seen life since he has lived in a sequestered environment.
It is not just in Tanu Weds Manu Returns that you hear of unlawful occupation of your flat. The illegal occupant is emboldened by his lawyer friends to even renovate it with marble flooring and modular kitchen. Now, your advocate advises you to file a case. Those with adequate experience or inkling of Indian law and justice system know that it would take no less than 20 yrs to get our property back. Hence, they secure back possession through “other means“. The ball is now in the court of the other party. Let them go to the court against you as aggrieved party. Let them face the music.
More and more people are now convinced that sorting out “by other means” or with “whatever resources” is the only workable solution. There is just one major problem in that. For example, today’s newspaper talks about ‘Privatisation of Railways’. We have already finished with government-run airlines (almost), govt run schools, colleges, hospitals, roads, shipping etc. In the end, if an ordinary citizen is reduced to sorting out things of law and justice too “by other means“, we must reflect on it as to what do we require the government for?
My dad’s elder brother, HS Dilgir, was an intellectual, a respected professor of journalism in Punjab University, and had the first Academy of Performing Arts in Chandigarh called Kala Darpan. He had told me several decades back that in India, the only way to sort out the mess that we have landed up in, is not the evolutionary route but that of revolution. During his lifetime itself he saw this happen when one-third of the about 600 districts in India landed up in having bloody revolution in the form of ‘Left Wing Extremism’. We had the former Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh admitting that LWE is not a law and order problem but that of poor governance. In most of these districts now the writ of the government doesn’t run at all. People dissatisfied with the miserable way of governance, law and justice, poverty eradication etc, have taken the law in their own hands.
And still, our people, netas, lawyers, judges, haven’t woken up to the reality of the future. We still feel that people would continue being ruled over, hoodwinked, ill-treated, made to live undignified existence and continue paying them for their ills.
I feel that it is just around the corner when the lack of law and justice, corrupt police, lawyers and judges force people in the remaining 2/3rd districts too to sort out things “by other means“. Yes, at present the lawyers and advocates get away by behaving like gods; however, people’s tolerance with their ways is already running thin.
In short, time has come when we either implement long pending Police and Judicial Reforms, or allow people to sort out things by “whatever resources“.
Every person has a desire to be seen as virtuous. I am sure if you talk to the lawyers, they too paint themselves as “victims of circumstances” and “victims of a corrupt system“. However, I remember what the then Editor-in-Chief of Indian Express Arun Shourie wrote once: “The only way for evil to last is for good-men to do nothing about it.”
We, therefore, need to fight these systems both individually and collectively. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.
I have come across lawyers (and they are more a rule than exception) who have such large egos that they would totally drop your case in case you ask them anything or comment upon lack of justice. They like being part of the corrupt and inefficient system rather than being on your side (the correct and the right side). A friend shared with me that his own lawyer had the temerity to file an FIR against him when questioned about the slow and meaningless progress of the case. My own advocate fell short of filing FIR against me.
They are a band of brothers. In case a lawyer drops your case, no other lawyer would take up your case/cause.
If you report the conduct of the lawyer to the Bar Council, you multiply your miseries many times because those who sit in judgement over your case are lawyers themselves!
In my state Himachal (where I was born and brought up), there is another despicable thing going on (it must be going on in other states too). It is that the lawyers and judges are perceived to favour what they think are indigenous Himachalis as opposed to “outsiders“. Because we are Punjabi speaking and have names that end in ‘Singh’ and ‘Kaur’, people routinely ask us as to what made us migrate to Himachal from Punjab. They are stunned when I tell them that I was born and brought up entirely in this state. They are even more stunned when I remind them that each one of our states is supposed to be multilingual, multi-religious, and multi-caste. You should see their incredulous expressions! Needless to say, your advocate exploits this to his advantage fully by putting you at defensive.
Who profits from such parochial, corrupt and inefficient system? Think. As a parallel, who do you think gains from the perpetual traffic jams in (say) Mumbai caused by perpetual religious festivities on the roads that result in exorbitant fuel costs. The petrol pumps are also owned by the politicians and their cronies; and hence your guess is as good as mine. They always win.
The correct analogy of trying to approach Indian courts for justice is that of rape victims. A politician in Goa proclaimed that women deserve to be raped if they dress so provocatively. Similarly, we deserve to be ‘raped’ by the judicial system if we are so foolish as to take matters to court. The fault eventually lies with ‘We, the People of India’.
It is like after a traffic accident, one or both parties approaching the police. The police lightens the burden of the pockets of both the parties and “settles” the case!
Indian lawyers behave like gods because we allow them to. We let go our powers to demand service and accountability. The more people demand these, the more the lawyer shall diminish in size from being a god to a pygmy.
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