Legal Eye: Asaduddin Owaisi and the question of judging a Judge
I am no fan of Asaduddin Owaisi; and I couldn’t care less about his professional, social, political or financial standing or otherwise. But just for the purpose of dissecting news reports objectively, let’s critically examine his purportedly venomous ranting, speeches, and utterances, against the appointment of Justice Awasthi Rituraj, as the Law Commission’s Chairman. Let it be known to the All India Bar Association (AIBA) that I vehemently oppose the question of judging a Judge because this concept is alien to those who have expert knowledge of the law (Jurist).
Just because a particular judge is held in high esteem, by a particular group of advocates, it needs not to be his knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, and experience that is impeccable. We don’t need any Bar and/or other institution and/or supposedly eminent individual advocate issue certificates of merit to Judges (Good or bad). Of course, Owaisi’s critics have every right to criticise Owaisi for the latter’s criticism of Justice Awasthi’s appointment as Chairman of the Law Commission, for the simple reason; in India, nearly everyone claims to have the right to criticise; particularly people in the legal field are addicted to doing criticism; some of their arguments run thus, I think this is right, or I think this is wrong etc.
Irrespective of what you think, the law is the law. One may think the Sun will rise from the west but it does not happen. However, you are at liberty to think as you like; but things don’t function as you think. The law is what is laid down by the legislature, and printed in the bare Act, and not what I think, you think he/she thinks or we/they think; which reminds me of ludicrous happenings at various courts; wherein either individual advocates or the bar as a body have gone on record saying, this judge is honest and/or learned and that judge is ignorant and/or dishonest.
I have occasions to attend various meetings organized by various bar associations including Bar Councils, in different capacities, see and hear for myself an avalanche of eulogies, about certain advocates and/or judges, which to my mind is outright falsity; nothing short of pandering and sycophancy The legal profession has got attuned to such lavish praise, which sounds like a melody to their ears; and is easily digestible in comparison to any harsh truth; in fact, when I lecture at some colleges, I am told in advance, not to tell the plain truth, lest it embarrasses members of the profession. So you see how things function; in order to save face; according to some quarters, it’s prudent to sweep the dirt under the carpet; rather than actually clean the place.
Another major problem in this profession is advocates think, nobody other than advocates, themselves are competent to appraise issues of law and allied issues of law, and to aggravate the situation. We have hordes of journalists who project a larger-than-life image of certain advocates and judges, more out of the ignorance of the journo rather on merit; and yes this brings to my mind, an incident, when a journo from a leading broadsheet daily English paper published from Mumbai, asked a senior (By age, not by designation) advocate “I want to interview you regarding TADA”, and an advocate who happened to be the founder of Bandra Bar Association, asked her, “What do you know about TADA”? She replied, “I don’t have knowledge of TADA”.He then continued, how will you confront me? If I say something how will you know whether it’s right or wrong? In another incident at Bandra Court in Mumbai, where leading TV Channels had positioned themselves outside the court compound and were seeking opinions on supposed points of law from advocates, in the eyes of the anchors all wearing black coats were presumed to be learned and were asked for their opinion.
A number of my friends in media have repeatedly told me, that a particular news report cannot be published as no FIR had been lodged and publishing it might amount to defamation or some complication. It is out of the ignorance of the media, that they get afraid of their own shadow. I can furnish umpteen examples, which may consume reams of paper; suffice to say as much as the legal fraternity has done damage, the journo fraternity has also done damage, through wrong reportage; and therefore it cannot be the prerogative of only advocates to opine on the subject of law. (It’s exasperating when one blind leads another).
My forty years of association with this profession, in various capacities has taught me that there are more politics and fewer academics. The legal profession which includes judges more often than not tries to browbeat plebeians and would like others to think themselves gullible.
These legal eagles consider themselves erudite. This is because they have a myopic view of the subject, by virtue of limiting themselves to intellectual exercises amongst their fraternity; therefore they suffer from obscured vision when evaluating.
To sum up, I may say that a particular judge may be God for you, but not for those who know the law, when evaluating his eminence is grandiose vis-à-vis yourself; which you are using as a unit of measure. Therefore, with dogmatism, one cannot say that so and so is a good or a bad judge.
This is not a comparison between a cobbler and a doctor who both deal with skin. The question is about to what extent do the perceptions, whether of an Owaisi or the AIBA, really matter to the Jurist.
*The author is a legal expert. Views expressed herein are of the author for academic purposes only.