This article has been submitted by Subhro Sengupta for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
As the humdrum of the preparatory phase dies down, and as the preparation for the welcoming of the new faces into Law School’s begins, it is that time of the year when customary advice has to be dished out; from why law and which law school to whether you should carry a quilt to the place or not.
At last, for the hazy eyed kids out there – Your Hogwarts Express is here – to take you to the mystic portals of that Institution which you are destined to attend.
I would deviate from the usual. I must say that the journey through law school till date has given me quite an education, and with time one hopes to add experience to it. So a word of advice to my juniors; not only those who will be joining HNLU, but for all of you, who intend to pursue this noble profession.
Lesson #1 – From today you are a lawyer –
Yes it is as simple as that. You are not a doctor, not a scientist, not an engineer; you are a member of the legal profession. Think deeply about it. What difference does that bring to your life? For some, it means a route of escape, for some it is a route to self realization, and for few a route to be able to lead those around them and to show the masses, the existence of Justice.
Think and think some more on this – take a sheet of paper and write down your thoughts – this is the one question that determines whether you will be just another Lawyer; or whether you will be the lawyer. Realization of the fact, that today you are a lawyer.
Lesson #2 – The idea of justice –
A doctor treats people, an engineer builds bridges, a psychiatrist analyzes thoughts – what do you do? Literally, as you would realize much later (I won’t say understand, because I believe this cannot be taught, only realized), you do all of the above. You are the Jack of all trades – and the master of one. Law is not about the Aces or the Kings; it’s about the seemingly insignificant Jack.
As of now try and fit this into your head – by the time you pass out five years later, you will be an upholder of the all pervading idea of Justice.
It is time to introduce you to the three terms which will continue to confuse, amuse and disport you through your years in this trade: Justice, Equity and Good Conscience.
As an instrumentality of the law you are supposed to guide and be guided, as the case may be, by these three cardinal principles. They are special because their complexity lies in their simplicity itself. What is just? What is equitable? These questions are to plague you all throughout your mortal life as you go from one situation to another trying to answer to the test of these three elements. These are your sword, spear and shield for the long journey that you are about to undertake.
Lesson #3 – Who represents Law for you?
This is one of the most important lessons – for, every lawyer/officer of law of mettle who understood the all comprehending nature of the subject, has a father figure. I mean, in thought and in inspiration. Who or what represents the Law for you?
I have this close friend whose example I love citing. He found the true manifestation of the subject, when he was working with T.R. Andhyarujina. (Andhyarujina was H.M. Seervai’s assistant in the Keshavananda Bharati case. Andhyarujina is currently a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and one of the most influential lawyers in India). For him that man or being around that man brings out law in its fullest colours. Like the monsoon. When all seems to be clear; and one can see the colours of the nature that surrounds him.
For me personally, it has been, knowing the life and times of Palkhiwala. I won’t claim that I know all by him, or all about him, but it is just that feeling you get: Yes, this is the man, Nani Ardeshir Palkhiwala. The one who represents the gravity of the profession, and the eruditeness associated with it.
I have a photograph of his on his graduation day from St. Xavier’s College and another one, of his famous Budget speeches: The man, his radiant smile, his composure, his calm persona says that the man has attained peace of mind, that can be gained only with true knowledge of the Art. One realizes this, even if they are yet to realize the full lengths of his achievements, or the implication of his deeds.
The lesson would be: Read, read more and more because unless you do so you are going to be ignorant of so much around you. The true beauty of your profession is revealed to you when you know the greats. The entire generation of outstanding Parsi lawyers and their contemporaries – Seervai, Palkhiwala, Kanga, Chagla, Hidayatullah, Setalvad later Soli Sorabjee, Fali Nariman. It moves you in a way that cannot be explained: I finished reading about the Indira Gandhi era of Indian Constitutional Law at 3’o clock one morning, woke up in a daze and wrote the name of all the thirteen judges on the Keshavananda Bharati Bench on my wall. It is still there. For me at that point of time, some of them were Knights in shining armour who had struck the perfect balance between democracy and governance.
Lastly, reading about these great men and their works brings in you the much needed quality of humility; remember, the greatest in this profession, lived in a two bedroom apartment all their life, spend their free time reading and then reading some more, and the only pursuit that they had in life was the cultivation of knowledge and self-improvement; every day of the year for their entire lives.
*Two personal suggestions, for your reading list, before you join law school: Lord Denning’s, “The Due Process of Law” and Soli Sorabjee and Arvind Datar’s “Nani Palhiwala : The Courtroom Genius”.
Lesson #4 – Respect thy trade –
In September, 2012 I was in Chennai, where I had the brilliant opportunity to hear Justice Prabha Sridevan (she is a former Judge of the Madras High Court and currently serving as the currently the Chairman of Intellectual Property Appellate Board). Justice Sridevan, I must say, is not only an exquisite speaker, but one of the few in this field, who will introduce you to Law through the means of compassion for your fellow human beings; a quality almost un-noticeable in today’s world.
Justice Sridevan talked at length about the South African judicial system and the Constitution, and concluded by saying,
” Whatever one might say about being a Lawyer, always remember and hold pride in the fact that: without a Palhiwala, there would be no Keshavananda Bharati……”.
(The implications of these words are a little tough for you to understand right now – No Palkhiwala, hence no Keshavananda Bharati, therefore no Basic Structure doctrine etc.)
Brief words, but they succeed in bringing forth the entire cause for existence of this profession and the heights to which these Knights of justice took it.
Indeed, I have heard many a speakers before and after that afternoon, some of them of exceptional calibre and repute, but I don’t remember having cried at the beckoning of any of them. Tears of joy I must say. You will realize the greatness of this statement in the years to come, but as of now, it will be sufficient to say that, one must take a lot of pride in what he or she does and stay true to his profession if nothing else.
As the upholders of Justice, and as the conscience keepers and shapers of the society, we have a great duty ahead. And with such great power comes greater responsibility. From today you are not a solitary being, but you have the weight of an entire society upon you – the poor, the unfed, the hungry, the unclothed, the homeless; up to the last of men.
You must understand that the central idea behind having National Law School’s is to shape leaders of tomorrow. You are a leader, now it is time to realise it.
And remember, whenever there is criticism and scorn, of the profession or of your deeds, just utter in your mind, “Lord, they do not know what they are doing. Forgive them”.
One of the greatest leaders of civilized society attained peace with that, I guess even you will. They are not prepared for us. They are not at the same footing. Yet it is our job to take their hand and uplift their cause.
I hope these lessons serve the little purpose that I wished to put forward and I am optimistic that you will see the light ahead. I will be honoured to have your remarks or suggestions on all that has been mentioned above; wishing you a brilliant time ahead.
* And as the invitation lays for anyone joining HNLU; drop by. It’s G-53 in the A Block; we’ll talk over coffee and cigarettes…..
Subhro Sengupta joined HNLU in 2011 and is about to enter his 3rd year. Apart from all human requisites at college, he likes to read, think, write, to go on long walks on rainy days, public speaking and thinking about life ahead. He attended Ramakrishna Mission at Narendrapur, Calcutta before this, where he used to have a moustache, just like his father does.