Book Title: Fifteen Judgments: Cases That Shaped India’s Financial Landscape
Author: Saurabh Kirpal
Probably we all remember the media furore over the right to privacy of a citizen endangered by the enactment of the Aadhaar Act. Some of us might also recall the sound and fury generated by the RBI circular that issued a diktat to all banks regulated by it, not to deal in virtual currency. Both times, the apex court stepped in to adjudicate on the Public Interest Litigation and writ petition filed in the cases, adding clarity in the process to the provisions of the Act. This was again done when the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 2016 and Swiss Ribbons knocked at the door of the Supreme Court.
Clearly, when the legislature enacts laws pertaining to economic or fiscal issues, it is not possible for it to foresee all possible scenarios or anticipate the consequent circumventions. It is no surprise then that a fresh legislation invariably becomes the subject of dispute and eventual adjudication by the courts of the land. To understand the nuances of any legislation, it becomes necessary to examine the judgments on such a statute.
As the name suggests, Saurabh Kirpal’s book, ‘Fifteen Judgments: Cases that Shaped India’s Financial Landscape’, maps out 15 judgments of the Supreme Court which had a far-reaching impact on the financial topography of the country. The book very appropriately starts by examining the Bihar Land Reforms Act of 1950, which abolished the zamindaris in one fell swoop and the consequent introduction of Schedule 9, which protected it, and other such legislations, from judicial scrutiny.
He goes on to discuss the enactment for nationalisation of banks, the Industrial Disputes Act, which set up a tribunal framework for settlement of labour disputes and allowed compensation to workers for layoffs, et al.
He concludes his book by dwelling on the various facets of the Vodafone case that reads like a thriller, the Aadhaar judgment and the landmark decision on cryptocurrencies. As the reader wends his way through these case laws, he is also brought face-to-face with the political and social ideologies that influenced these legislations and judicial pronouncements. It becomes clear that a leaning towards Fabian socialism motivated the enactment of the Industrial Dispute Act and probably the liberalisation of 1990s showed up in the Swraj Paul case, when the court refused to lift the ‘corporate veil’.
The judgments are analysed and discussed in a conversational tone, shorn of legal jargon (as far as possible when talking about law), making it understandable for the common reader who is untutored in law or economic policy. The chapters are brief, yet comprehensive. The judgments, that most people may consider boring and dry as dust, are made interesting as Kirpal creates the background and social context of the issue, talks neutrally about the objective of the legislations, discusses the cause of divide along political or social lines and then gives the reader a peek into the essence of the judicial pronouncement. This gives the reader an overview of the issue as well as the judgment.
The discussion and analysis of the issues bear the stamp of the author’s personal opinion. For instance, after discussing the case of Goa miners, he clearly opines that ‘leaving ultimate control over environmental issues to courts is a deeply dissatisfactory solution’. While discussing the Vishaka case, he enunciates that law is not effective in controlling deviant behaviour and that imbalance of power between men and women will not be cured by applying band aid on gushing wounds.
These opinions, fearlessly given and simply worded, make the reader feel he is part of an informal yet intellectual chat with friends. And it is this that separates the book from the more academic legal commentaries on these issues.
The author has claimed in the Preface that the book ‘is an endeavour to educate the common man and woman about some of the legal issues in the world of finance’. He has certainly achieved his goal.