Dubey And His ‘Dubious’? Profession
With the ongoing issues related with lawyers and judiciary in the capital, this is a good time to read Ranjeev Dubey’s ‘Legal Confidential’ 
 
If a lawyer is asked to review peer literary work, he sees a problem. When the author’s name is Dubey, the problem seems compounded. Wrong on both counts. The book is readable and the lingo is fine. The introduction put paid to both apprehensions. That, in short, is Ranjeev Dubey’s ‘Legal Confidential’. Nice title; bit misleading.
 
The jarring notes first. He flirts with sex, in literature; not literally. A bit too often. Indian authors, from De to the new kids on the block, do it. Titillation seems de rigeur for any book these days. Does it sell? God knows. But then, see the titles. The Thakur Girls. Half Girlfriend, It Had To Be You. 51 shades of grey?
 
The advocate-lawyer link was a great connect; something that was personally so common. Maybe that was why the steamy bit was not too abrasive. Like Dubey, this reviewer went to a boarding school at 10. If the author has a highly developed sense of gladiatorial skills, one knows where it comes from -- being thrown in at the deep end in at an away-school. One soon learns that bullies are cowards. And Dubey has been a good learner. It has stood him in good stead as the book shows.
 
The survival instinct runs through the narrative. Surprising how the formative years, especially the adverse ones, grow additional limbs for support, life long. Dubey comes across as a fighter and a survivor. The English-medium backup is distinct. A bit crass, not much so, but it pulls the reader along. After all, language is the only weapon that a lawyer has. And Dubey is a successful lawyer who wields his rapier well.
 
One comes across bits and pieces, relevant to a young lawyer’s education, in the dog-eat-dog world that Ranjeev conjures up. There is much to learn; the most important being the need for Maginot Line warfare in the trial courts. He says that no lawyer can be good at his craft without living in the trenches of the subordinate jungles. True. Correct. Undisputable.
 
A lot of new graduates, when asked where they practise, answer with bloated rib-cage, “In the High Court”. Dubey would, if it were legal, shoot the sob on the spot. What the youngsters miss out on, by not putting it too fine, is that drafting skills need court-room experience. Legal agreements need to ensure that they will stand scrutiny in any court, whenever needed. Most seem to encourage the opposite trend. Airy-fairy, air-conditioned room stuff. Enough for the unlucky judge, who has to interpret them, to tear his hair out. One does not bring ‘The Art of War’ to a gunfight.
 
Ranjeev hits the ground running at the Tees Hazari Courts in Delhi. These are filled with what are called ‘adjournment advocates’. Experts at ‘taking dates’. He also encounters the full spectrum of judges. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Ranjeev’s favourite movie is also so named.
 
Ranjeev fits well into our system simply because it is adversarial. Arrogance, aggression, adversity, eventual annihilation are the vials that a lawyer needs in his medicine bag. Ranjeev has them and uses them. But then what good is a lawyer, if he is not a fighter? Law practice is not for the sissy, nor for the faint-hearted. Dubey is neither. Ups and downs, yes. But he pares metal with mettle.
 
The author dwells a lot on how he has been victimised. It’s overdone. Every where, at any time, people are going to be selfish. Whether it is his senior and mentor, Shanx, or the other ‘Dragon’, Deo, Ranjeev uses the book to tear, all those who cross his path, into shreds. Some women get similar treatment.
 
Law firms are as much political animals as any other organisation. Professional jealousy makes for deeper furrows. However, unlike the medical profession, the legal fraternity is more discrete. Doctors fight germs. Lawyers fight each other. And make sure that the litigating clients pay them both. Ranjeev, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
 
There is a lot of technical matter in some chapters. Most lawyers are tech-challenged. And smart-phone-operation-skills are not in that category. Ask them how to calculate the floor area of a flat, or the definition of FSI. They would refer you to an architect!
 
 Ranjeev, on the other hand, is well-versed in engineering and mechanics. He tells us of how tunnels are bored, lined (with cast iron plates), and about the unforeseen pitfalls, literally, in excavations.
 
That particular chapter is interesting.  A tunnel-boring machine is like a huge, horizontal cookie cutter. It has rotating blades that can cut through soft chalk, like in the Chunnel, or through solid rock. When soft, the boring is immediately followed with curved cast S G Iron plates to shore up the sides. Otherwise, it simply burrows through the basalt leaving a solid tunnel with no support needed.
 
Ranjeev’s client was the tunnelling contractor. The tender said it was solid rock all the way through. The clients quoted accordingly. They failed to read into the small print. The government had inserted a clause saying that, though they claimed complete soil testing of the site, the contractor better beware. Caveat Venditor.
 
Instead of hitting paydirt, the client hit pure dirt. Literally. Lots of it. Gooey stuff, fancifully called a ‘fossil cave’. It was a deep hole and Dubey’s client fell right through it. With that, the viability caved in. Call in fire fighter Ranjeev Dubey.
 
If you want to know what happened, and how to manufacture a Houdini Escape Mechanism, ……. well, you will have to read the book. Did the butler ‘did’ it? Or didn’t ‘did’ it? Pulling the wool over the eyes is putting it lightly. If the law is an ass, the lawyers are not donkeys.
 
Dubey has much to say about our city, Bombay, as it was so called, as well as the surroundings, like Silvassa and Daman. He was in the thick of it when the Inspector Raj, the Excise morons, the thieving industrialists, our own robber barons were the flavour of the season. A chapter is spent on duty evasion, the CST/ST fiddle in ‘invoiced manufacture’, and the honesty shown by non-desis. Of this, this reviewer is not so sure. Crooks abound everywhere.
 
All laws manufacture loop-holes. The holes are so large that the big fish sail through. It’s the tadpoles that get ensnared, unerringly, unfathomably. Ranjeev has seen his share. What he has not, or at least not mentioned, is the subsidy scandals where over-invoicing paid for the promoter’s share. All laws manufacture loop-holes!
 
The grimy life of a bachelor in Delhi is well portrayed. But millions of others go through the grind. Why should lawyers, even good ones, be excluded? Advocates do tend to exaggerate, and over-emphasise their importance. Multiple swanky pens in jacket pockets. Client-as-dirt policy. Special queues, for the black-robed, for entering elevators. As Drucker had said, “If you want parking space close to the door, ARRIVE EARLY”.
 
Fortunately, Ranjeev shows none of that attitude. He comes across as a businessman. Getting the thing done is priority A1. Laws and loopholes are only to remove roadblocks. Or to create them! Depending on which side of the fence his client is.
 
One last word, Ranjeev. Get a goooood editor, please. Narratives need the mercury treatment. Flow. Just as you would explain an old case to a new judge. And win. Will be reading your other books.
 
Good Luck.

 

 

 

 
 
Excerpt: The judge couldn't believe this was happening to him. "Write, they were in a compromising position", he barked. Then he turned to me. "Vakil sahib, client bacha rahe ho ya maze le raheho?" (Are you protecting the client or entertaining yourself?). Here's the deal. If a man claims he stumbled onto his wife getting it on with someone, all you need do is go on and on cross examining him about the lack of witnesses. You can ask him how is it possible that when tiny mud huts stand shoulder to shoulder in a jhuggi colony full of unemployed adults and unsupervised kids; his wife found this beautiful patch of perfectly screwable solitude to commit adultery? You can ask him why you should possibly believe such a nakedly self-serving story. You can assail his character. You can suggest he is morally challenged who gambled away his family fortune and cannot be trusted. Heck, you can call him a lying bastard and a rake. What you cannot and should never do is help him flesh out and detail his story. You must never ask a question the answer to which you do not already know. You should most definitely never get caught up in your beautiful insightful understanding of the legal principle and let that dictate your cross examination. At the end of the day, what a judge thinks of a witness is all about human sensibility, not legal principle: it's to the man inside the judge to whom you must appeal. I had cocked it up big time. It wasn't the end of the world: many lawyers lose nearly-won cases but this one remains by far the worst cross examination I have ever done. Mercifully, no harm was done. One year later, when the matter was finally argued before another judge, the whole testimony was nothing but a series of statements saying "They were in a compromising position" which meant nothing. I buried my blunder under the previous judge's embarrassment and saved the client from damnation. That's the thing about being a lawyer. Everyone gets paid to do a job right, but how many have so much fun doing it?
 
 
 
(Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected])
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