A Damn Rich Tribunal

NOT so long ago, a video clip featuring personnel of the ‘Damn Rich Tribunal’ (henceforth referred to as DRT) was doing the rounds among lawyers and laymen alike.

It was a clip from one of the several such celebrations that the ‘Damn Rich Tribunal’s Bar Association’ (DRTBA) holds every now and then.

It was faithfully reported by those who attended the event that food, drinks, music and dance had flowed in equal measure at this bash. The faces of those in the clip exhibited unalloyed pleasure.

There is nothing ignoble if members of a noble profession enjoy a few drinks, let their hair down and gyrate to loud music once in a while.

But this video clip showed presiding officers of the DRT cavorting with members of the DRTBA irrespective of gender.

Even the Numero Uno, who as an ex-milord of a high court, was unrealistically expected by old-fashioned worthies to maintain ‘decorum’ even at private bashes, was observed dancing with a lady office-bearer of the DRTBA… though the majority opinion was that the lady danced better!

The DRTBA has always been flush with funds.

A friend and colleague, who is a prominent member of the DRTBA, unfailingly attends all such bashes. He eats and drinks but does not dance.

Instead, he records the antics of his cavorting colleagues and staff on camera once the hired DJ gets sufficiently high to start playing suggestive songs that inspire and induce even shapeless bodies to pulsate in expectation.

In this age of ubiquitous social media, they also undoubtedly serve who only stand, focus and record. My friend is thus serving a good cause. Let us give him the name: Advocate Sabme Paisa Dekho.

S.P. to his colleagues, but just Advocate Dekho for this story.

If any clip on social media is deemed infectious, it starts spreading like a virus. Advocate Dekho and his ilk have no copyright on such clips but they love it when their clips go ‘viral’.

Advocate Dekho let me in on a ‘little secret’ of the DRTBA. He said the members of this blessed Bar association are able to enjoy these lavish parties more often than other Bar associations because of Goddess Maa Laxmiji’s blessings. The weekly income of this Bar association is in lakhs!

Naturally, I was curious to know how DRTBA lawyers get DRT judges to literally dance to their tunes at plush venues every now and then.

Advocate Dekho told me that this was a result of an enviable camaraderie and cooperation between the Bar and the Bench in the DRT. The modus operandi is something like this:

The adjudicators (whether it is the registrar, the presiding officer, the chairperson or even the recovery officer) never harm any matter, are liberal with adjournments and mostly condone delays and mistakes of the lawyers whether such leniency is justified or not.

But for being so cooperative and doing any or all of this, the adjudicators in the DRT from top to bottom always impose ‘costs’.

What is even more curious is that the Bar members do not mind such impositions and gladly instruct their clients to pay such costs!

Naturally, such Orders are hardly ever challenged by anyone.

“Why on Earth?” one may ask.

Even I asked Advocate Dekho.

Well, the reason given by Advocate Dekho was this: All such imposts are invariably directed by the adjudicating officers to be paid only to the DRTBA. No wonder its weekly collection is in lakhs!

Advocate Dekho told me that more than ₹20 crore was available in its savings bank account at any given time!

For that DRT, this is considered as chai-paani ka kharcha!

Why then should the privileged members of the DRTBA not live in that zone of perennial bliss to which only saints aspire?

While many Bar associations may have ample funds, not everyone uses those for having a jolly good time and celebrating in style when not involved in attending cases.

Some associations may just publish directories or souvenirs with photos of their executive committee members grinning away for posterity.

Some rare ones may invest in infrastructure such as new chairs, tables, cupboards and computers. Some associations may wish to subscribe to digital reports and update their libraries.

The real old-fashioned ones may simply stash all the money in fixed deposits of nationalised banks and watch them grow slowly just like they watch fungus growing on outdated leather-bound tomes lying untouched as relics of a bygone era on the musty bookcases of their libraries.

The DRTBA knows how to put its money to good use. They choose the best venues and select the best menus. Those adjudicators who ensure a constant inflow of cash by awarding costs to the DRTBA are repaid and rewarded regularly by an outpouring of gratitude in the form of food and drinks at lavish parties.

This is what makes the DRTians a privileged lot.

Another interesting facet is worth noting.

When it comes to conducting cases, a DRTian in the DRT can run in circles around the biggest counsel from any high court if they are foolhardy enough to stray into the cash-rich precincts of the DRT.

Some may imagine DRT to be a small pond but the unity of the frogs who dominate this pond is such that it can make even alligators from big rivers think twice before venturing on even a picnic to this pond.

The presiding officers of DRT are always a happy lot. There is a lot of struggle and competition to occupy these seats but once one gets on the seat, the ride is far better than any business-class travel.

Watching the big boss of all such presiding officers cavorting on the video clip with the DRTBA members brought back memories of the many tales Advocate S.P. Dekho had shared with me.

I have urged him to pen and compile these tales of facts-stranger-than-fiction. However, practitioners in the DRT are so busy making money that they have no time for such a time-pass.

I am, nevertheless, tempted to share with readers just one anecdote narrated by Advocate Dekho which I particularly enjoyed.

It seems the DRT’s presiding officers do not really care for high court precedents. They get appointed by the government and are not obliged to kowtow to milords.

These assignments are so lucrative that all manner of influence peddling is at play to get appointed to the DRT.

Oftentimes, the battle to get their candidate appointed leads to tussles among politicians resulting in the seat remaining vacant for long. But once a ‘right’ person is appointed, the DRTians are very happy… and the appointee is even happier.

Presiding officers of the DRT can get away with almost anything. Once, a division Bench judgment of the Bombay High Court was cited by a bank before a presiding officer.

It was directly on the point and would have forced him to dismiss the application of the borrower he wished to favour.

The presiding officer was looking for a way out when he spotted the senior milord’s name in the law report cited before him.

Isn’t this the fellow who resigned recently because he did not want to go to some other high court even as a chief?”

When the lawyer appearing in the matter confirmed that indeed it was the very same milord, the presiding officer just threw that judgment away and said: “Judgments of judges who resign are not binding upon us!”

No one thought it fit to ask him for a precedent to support this unique proposition.

However, he voluntarily elaborated: “A judge who does not have confidence in his own ability to function in any other state is inferior to us because we are ready to go and do justice anytime, anywhere. Therefore we need not trust such a fellow’s judgment.”

That was that!

The presiding officer proceeded to do what he wanted. Thus the applicant’s lawyer got what he wanted.

Thereafter, both of them danced away in celebration at the next bash organised by the DRTBA.

The Leaflet