LOK SABHA ELECTIONS 2019: INDIA DECIDES

Living in leaky times

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | NARASIMHAN VIJAYARAGHAVAN
Published Nov 22, 2018, 2:58 am IST
Updated Nov 22, 2018, 2:58 am IST
The judges added, "The court is not a platform. It is a place for adjudication. We intend to set it right."
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi
 Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi

Reports show that Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and his two brother judges were 'furious' at the 'leakage of sealed covers' meant only for the eyes of the Law Lords and the counsel to whom it was shared with. Justice Gogoi let loose from the minute the Court assembled, on November 20, cancelling the 20-minute Mention time, ordinarily allowed, by plunging into the Alok Varma, CBI Chief's petition.

The Judges posed, "Yesterday, we refused the mentioning and we expressed that the highest degree of confidentiality will be maintained, but for some strange reason the papers were taken away and given to everyone."

 

The judges added, "The court is not a platform. It is a place for adjudication. We intend to set it right."

The judges were apparently referring to leakage of details of another petition, by CBI officer Manish Kumar Sinha, who came out with allegations against Mr Asthana and top government functionaries like law secretary, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and a Minister of State. Saying that the parties did not 'deserve' a hearing, the proceedings were adjourned to November 29. 

The learned Judges shared the uploaded material with Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman- "We are not handing over this to you as Verma's counsel. We have given this to you as a senior and respected member of the bar. We want you to respond to this. Take time if you want."

Let's be real. We live in different and interesting times. Much as in the Western horizon, the legal eagles are now in news 24 x 7. Court proceedings are debated and openly, and on many an occasion, the participants are litigants and lawyers themselves. The nuances of 'sub judice', on a moral plank have gone for a toss. Lawyers appear so eager to be beamed across the nation to attain 'celebrity' status. Who cares for the subtleties of ethics in the legal profession?

Lawyers chase the Papparazi. Two-bit sound byte reporting has taken a monstrous tone impinging on the purity of administration of justice .The leaks come for the asking. No leg work or dark dungeons to be visited like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had to with Deep Throat.

Media gets it all online with the click of a mouse. It is one helluva party game with court proceedings taking centre stage, considering the sensitive issues they take on. It's Breaking News Time folks. Breaking News, All The Time.

Talking about law and ethics can go take a break. The fall in standards in the legal profession is not old hat. Its new avatar has taken alarming proportions. Proof?

Read what Supreme Court said in 1998- in the infamous RK Anand, Congress MP Case, where he was suspended from legal practice for a year, for 'influencing a witness'.

"The bitter truth is that the facts of the case are manifestation of the general erosion of the professional values among lawyers at all levels. We find today lawyers indulging in practices that would have appalled their predecessors in the profession barely two or three decades ago. Leaving aside the many kinds of unethical practices indulged in by a section of lawyers we find that even some highly successful lawyers seem to live by their own rules of conduct. 

"We have viewed with disbelief Senior Advocates freely taking part in TV debates or giving interviews to a TV reporter/anchor of the show on issues that are directly the subject matter of cases pending before the court and in which they are appearing for one of the sides or taking up the brief of one of the sides soon after the TV show. Such conduct reminds us of the fictional barrister Rumpole, `the Old Hack of Bailey', who self deprecatingly described himself as an `old taxi plying for hire'; he at least was not bereft of professional values. 

When a young and enthusiastic journalist invited him to a drink of Dom Perignon, vastly superior and far more expensive than his usual `plonk', `Chbteau Fleet Street', he joined him with alacrity but when in the course of the drink the journalist offered him a large sum of money for giving him a story on the case; `why he was defending the most hated woman in England', Rumpole ended the meeting simply saying, 'In the circumstance I think it is best if I pay for the Dom Perignon'."

Excuse me, Mr. Chief Justice, even the venerable Fali Nariman cannot help. We the People love it as it is, all hanging out on live 24 X 7 Breaking News and scoops galore on web portals and trolls on social media to add to the reality show, for we live in 'leaky' times. At what cost, India? Do we Care?

(Author is practising Advocate in the Madras High Court)

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