Madness in Madras

Two weeks ago, I wrote on these pages about Vasantha Pai, a lawyer, legislator, and freedom fighter in Chennai. All that he stood for, practised, and preached, was repudiated in and outside the Madras High Court this week. As someone who enrolled as an advocate in Tamil Nadu, I hang my head in shame over the last two days’ developments. What happened earlier on Thursday evening the High Court grounds is deeply disturbing. No amount of spin can condone it.

Almost 100 years older than the Supreme Court itself, the Madras High Court has been a grand symbol of our country’s commitment to justice and the rule of law. As a school boy and law student, I walked through those magnificent Indo-Sarcenic hallways of the High Court that reek with history, grandeur, and tradition. Having spent formative years as a legal intern there, the court is an indelible part of my legal imagination. It has greatly influenced my pride in what I’ve always considered to be the learned and noble legal profession and, indeed, in my conception of what is just, what is fair, and what is proper. Yesterday’s violent incidents shake those long-held beliefs to the core.

This is a Nadiad moment for the Indian legal profession. There will be time for time for introspection on what went wrong. There will be charges and counter-charges about who is to blame and who provoked whom and whether the police used unreasonable force. The inevitable inquiries have been ordered and they will run their course. But now is a time for immediate action. My sincere hope is that the Supreme Court will act on Friday with all deliberate speed to ensure that the Madras High Court’s majesty is restored immediately. It must ensure that the all the guilty (whether the police or lawyers) are brought to book and made to account for their despicable actions.

I fear that without the Supreme Court’s prompt intervention, or perhaps, inspite of it, I doubt the title “advocate” is likely to command the respect and regard that it did before in my state of Tamil Nadu and, I fear, in other parts of our country.

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  • This incident underlines once more the sad state of the legal profession in India.

    The latest episode should not come as a surprise to anyone. The legal profession has become the last refuge of the lumpen proletariat. The low entry standards means literally anyone can become an “advocate”. Some of these gentlemen are the foot soldiers of political agitation – can we expect any better?

    Until there is a proper barrier to entry (which unfortunately can’t be retroactive) in the form of bar exams – there is no hope…

  • Sir,
    When the police stood watching outside Law college when the socalled budding lawyers beat their fellow students to pulp, it was considered “Police inadequacy”,”lack of original thinking amongst the Police brass’ etc.Media and all seminarists cried hoarse for lack of action by Police.
    Today socalled lawyers Burnt the police station inside the high court, beat up and made a mockery of law, the police just ran away and came later to enter the high court to teach the holligans a lesson.
    Now Legal luminaries are asking who gave order to police to enter the High court?Nobody is asking why the Holligans burnt the police station or burnt the police vehicles?
    The lawyers are agitated about CRPC amendments as it affects their belly but burning police station for reprisal shgows lack of leadership.
    If police winks at revolt and criminals( just as it happens in Dacca), then our democracy will perish.
    right thinking lawyers must come out and speak the TRUTH, TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH