We wrote about judges not necessarily knowing all the laws, and got quite a bit of flak. No matter. At least, we are being read.
The third editorial in daily newspapers has, historically, been a tongue-in-cheek offering. While many a truth is hidden in jest, wry humour, every day, is difficult to create. So, when a finance daily takes on the lawyers, the courts and yoga, one needs to reflect on the column.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition about yoga; overburdened, it has to suffer the indignities emanating from frivolous issues. The brethren had to decide whether or not yoga should be mandatory in schools. With such earth-shaking disputes on hand, the bench thought that levity was not in order. The opposing advocates were asked if any of them actually knew anything about yoga.
You be the judge. And judge the judges on this: Did the bench have the right to ask such a question?
You be the judge on this too: Should the lawyers have known more than they did?
Not being Baba Ramdev, someone mumbled something about pranayama, but the odds are that he must have heard it in passing, without actually understanding its true meaning. About whether the advocates failed in their duty, we think they did. If we firmly believe that every judge need not know every law, we equally strongly believe that every lawyer must be superbly versed in the brief that he holds. Otherwise, he is doing his client grave disservice.
It is incumbent upon every lawyer, advocate and counsel, to keep himself abreast of the intricacies of the dispute; he needs to grill his client more than questioning the opponent in cross-examination. The client needs to be both truthful and comprehensive in his explanations. He must, first of all, draw up a chronology of events leading to the dispute. He must collect all the documents pertaining to the case. Every scrap of paper is important. As I sit at home and type this, I realise that we have a roof over our heads because of one single envelope; one that I was using as a bookmark. Nothing is unimportant. The lawyer’s duty, next, is to segregate the wheat from the chaff, check the evidentiary documents against the chronology. He needs to punch holes in his own client’s story, fill in the gaps and make a coherent narrative to be presented to the court. He has to put himself in the shoes of the judge.
The next stop is the library. The lawyer must check on available material that relates to the case. He may have to go back years, even a hundred years, to dig out previously decided cases that bolster his own. Foundations may have been laid; he now needs to build the house. Nearly 40 years ago, a young advocate had upbraided me with some very wise words. “Never think you know everything. The other advocate will know what you do not.”
Overworked counsels sometimes rush through briefs; read only the prayers. The client should not force the pace. He should understand that humans can do only so much and give the advocate time to digest the matter. If not prepared, encourage asking for an adjournment. It will be granted. No litigant can suffer for the fault of his advocate. Courts are understanding and accommodative. There is, of course, a limit.
If the lawyer has to know all about the complexities and pitfalls, he needs help from the client. After all, the client has been in the thick of the situation and knows best. This is not a visit to the doctor where one pays the fees and gulps down the medicine. Legal warfare is against astute opponents and their appointees. Unlike germs, these forces fight back. Preparation is the key.
With this, we say ‘Good luck’ and hope readers understand why lawyers charge the way they do!