Do not doubt the veracity of what follows, the author has personally witnessed each incident. All are true, unfortunately so.
You be the judge.
a) An advocate, caught in a collusive suit, loses his temper, points to his co-defending attorney and shouts at the bench, “I’m telling you, no matter what happens in this court, if anything happens to this man outside, I shall not be responsible.” (Translated from Marathi)
b) A cross-examining advocate is asked not to badger the old witness saying it is tantamount to ‘third-degree’. “I will give you third degree also,” threatens the opposing advocate, right there before the judge.
c) Later, the same advocate is caught, red-handed, influencing a witness. When asked, he threatens the judge, “You can do what you want. I won’t answer you.” (Translated from Marathi)
d) An advocate is pulled up for constant absence and delays. He says, pointing to the judge, “Just because you are sitting up there, do you think you can do whatever you want?” (Translated from Gujarati)
e) A senior Supreme Court counsel adopted delaying tactics, knowing the opponent was from Mumbai. The Mumbai lawyer insisted on arguments, even without the opponent’s presence. Word was conveyed by a junior which brought the senior counsel to the court. Upset, he violently elbowed the visiting advocate; who still carries a welt near his spine.
In a), the police was informed, protection given. In chambers, over tea, the offending lawyer apologised profusely with a five-minute speech. The second lawyer only said, “The interest of my client is paramount.” Case continued; won by the second lawyer.
In b), the judge did not act on the complaint. Emboldened, the advocate then threatened the judge with, “Are you going to be a witness against me?” This led to c). The judge avoided cognisance, was transferred, the new incumbent knew nothing of the foregoing and decided the matter only on available evidence. Sad.
In d), another advocate got up and apologised
“… on behalf of my fellow advocates.” The judge, junior and new to the court, found his courage and hit back. The last we heard, the lawyer is no longer representing his clients. Bravo!
In the final case, the judge remarked, “Just because xxxxxxxxx has entered the room, the court is not going to change its mind.” Thank God.
An American court recently witnessed greater perversity. A big black man was convicted for the murder of another black, half his size. The prosecuting solicitor likened the convict to ‘meeting King Kong on a bad day’, calling him ‘caveman’, ‘mountain man’, ‘monster’, ‘big old tiger’, and ‘beast of burden’. The all-white sentencing jury lapped it up, especially when the solicitor accused the convict of having sex with a white blonde lady! The death sentence became a formality.
The appeals court, upset at the tone and tenor of the prosecutor, declared, “The most egregious appeals to racial prejudice came in his (solicitor’s) closing argument, in which he referred to (appellee) Bennett using a slew of derogatory terms.” “The many instances where the system performs its duties admirably help to build the trust of the people. A proceeding like this one threatens to tear that trust apart.” “We, therefore, affirm the judgement of the district court granting habeas relief.”
Obviously, it happens everywhere.
The author, perturbed by the opposition’s unethical practices, once let his mind be known in court. Later, he apologised for being so agitated. The judge smiled and said, “That’s why we are here.”
Reluctance, on the part of litigants, encourages errant advocates. Crushed under legal warfare, they are averse to opening up another front, especially where a judge is so involved. Don’t rock the boat in choppy waters, lest it create a storm.
It’s a mixed bag. Quoting Justice Cardozo again, “All that a judge requires is honesty and courage.” Maybe, a bit more of the latter.