Court’s legacy
Saurabh Malik

BY now you are well aware of the settled principle that illustrious men craft celebrated institutions out of mere buildings; and a court is known not just by its judgments, but also by the judges who hold the scales, and the lawyers who place the weights.

So, it instantaneously becomes apparent that the golden jubilee souvenir released by the Punjab and Haryana High Court does complete justice to the institution’s image by judging the judges through the lawyers’ judicious eyes, and vice-versa.

But the keepsake’s appeal lies in more than findings on great judges and lawyers, who built the institution, case by case.

Going through the compilation of articles, one realises it has something about the machinations and intrigues that gave the building its look.

In Le Corbusier’s high court, trouble poured, along with the rain, recalls Delhi High Court’s former Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar in his article. "The courtrooms facing the secretariat would, in the rainy season, get windy showers."

Chief Justice Sachar says they frequently had to put on the raincoats and carry umbrellas before entering the courtrooms.

The Bar tried several times, though in vain, to convince Corbusier to have a "ceiling covering". So, "a kind of benevolent conspiracy was hatched between the lawyers and the local engineers". It was resolved to complete the verandah the next time he went to Paris.

"It was similar to our usual strategy, when we advise clients to delay the hearing of the case, if the matter is fixed before an inconvenient judge, who we know is shortly going on leave. Of course, on his return from Paris Corbusier was enraged and fuming, but the mischief had been done, and he reconciled unwillingly."

The voluminous 162-page hardback swathed in a chocolate cloak with title inscribed in golden letters, and the snapshot of the high court in the same hue, gives one the impression of a coffee-table manuscript. After all, it has some rare black and white snapshots of judges, whose names now adorn the roll-of-honour, and the law books.

In the very first article, Justice K.S. Garewal sets the mood by enumerating the grounds for coming out with the souvenir; says it was Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur’s way of paying humble tribute to the "galaxy of judges" and "stalwarts of the Bar".

So far you must have relied upon "11 commandments" laid down as preventive measures to be followed in all cases of arrest or detention, and other "landmark judgments", to form an opinion about former Chief Justice of India, Justice Dr A.S. Anand.

But former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Justice S.S. Sodhi, gives you a clear insight into the working of the great mind. "Over the years, observing the variety of people’s woes and tribulations from the Bench, he developed deeper understanding and fuller sympathy. No wonder, his judgments revealed an enriched sense of humanity and a greater quality of humanness," Justice Sodhi asserts.

The omnibus is informative, undoubtedly. Submissions on speedy justice find their way to the souvenir in Justice Sodhi’s other article "Administration of Justice: Need for Reforms".

More than a few issues are thrown up for perusal when Justice Sodhi talks about issuing "notice of motion", instead of just admitting or dismissing the cases at the stage of preliminary hearing.

The system of "three appeals" also comes under scrutiny, when Justice Sodhi questions: Would it not make justice speedier, if the first court were to be that of the District Judge, instead of the subordinate judge?"

As you reach the piece penned down by Justice H.S. Bedi of the Supreme Court, you understand there is a clear distinction between the courts and the lok adalats.

Building up a case in the favour of the moment, he says, "lok adalats are not a substitute for courts, but are appendage to their functioning". In complete concurrence, Justice Mehtab Singh Gill of the high court helps you understand the philosophy behind the mega lok adalat moment.

The manuscript also unfolds the story of Indian judiciary through its great protagonists — Justice A.N. Grover, Justice S. M. Sikri, Jagan Nath Kaushal, Sardar Dara Singh, Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice Surjit Singh Sandhawalia. The verdict in the end is clear: The souvenir is worth reading.