As the images of Salman Khan walking out of the court after his conviction flashed on TV my joy knew no bounds and I sent out multiple messages to some of my cynical friends saying, "Money can buy you happiness, but not the Indian judiciary." It was a validation of my belief in Satyameva Jayate --Truth Shall Triumph -- proudly displayed on our Ashok Chakra.
It was a validation of my belief that you can be brave enough to say quietly to the biggest superstar in the country, "You are convicted on all eight counts", and deliver a booming, exemplary judgement despite all the odds stacked against it - in this case, a delay of 13 years, the death of crucial witnesses and I am sure pressure from higher-ups. Instead, the verdict of Justice Deshpande triumphed, or so I thought.
A short while later I was eating my words. I should have added a disclaimer about lawyers on sale. A senior colleague had rushed to Mumbai and on a technicality had freed Salman. The star returned home to the loving arms of his mother. There was much rejoicing across Bollywood. It was as if martyr Bhagat Singh himself had been resurrected. It was a bizarre Kafkaesque situation where in one moment you are in the police van headed to a stay "behind bars" and in the other instant you are in a Mercedes Benz headed to another kind of bar. I had to rub my eyes in disbelief. It was much like witnessing a card trick where by the sleight of the hand the dealer changes the cards and from a dud hand you get a full house.
"The sections that I learnt and practise in law are based on justice and integrity. I don't remember any section on legal contortionism, but maybe that was an Elective that I didn't choose"
What was puzzling me most was that none of the "expert" senior lawyers on the TV shows had the courage to be upfront about anything, for fear of offending their colleague, or maybe another super-rich client, or maybe their bank accounts. They were frustratingly vague and evasive - "It may happen at times", "The courts can work until 7pm", "I can't comment till I see the entire judgement" and so on. I had to run a quick memory test to recall if in the last decade or so I had ever seen the court work even upto normal hours leave alone beyond working hours. But then maybe my "seniors" who've been in the business for decades know better.
All the while I cringed to think of what I would tell my clients, the women and men who hope for justice despite their lack of money power and who might come to the conclusion that the law operates differently for the rich and poor. Many times, being the eternal optimist that I am, I have defended the delays in the system by putting it down to the sheer volume of cases and other myriad reasons. I have never ever lost faith in the judiciary, even when I fought my divorce battle that carried on for a decade where I fought against the mighty and the powerful and eventually emerged victorious, without resorting to any underhand tactics.
What will I tell my clients after this? For once I am silent.
But Hon'ble Supreme Court, correct me if I am wrong -- one of the basic principles that I learnt was that justice must be served and must also be perceived to have been served. In this case it seems that by twisting the law like an expert contortionist, the lawyer has created a space for the guilty to have squeezed through the gap. The sections that I learnt and practise in law are based on justice and integrity. I don't remember any section on legal contortionism, but maybe that was an Elective that I didn't choose.
Yes, but I do remember having studied that the Supreme Court can take suo moto cognizance , which literally means "take notice of the fact on its own" and initiate suo moto action as they have done numerous times in the past.
So my Hon'ble Supreme Court please help me to continue practising as an honest lawyer... because currently I am on the endangered species list.