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I enrolled as an advocate in 1985.
By the end of that year, I had managed, with considerable difficulty, to get employment as a “junior” with a High Court practitioner.
This is another story from those early, unforgettable days.
In Court Room No.6 on the Ground Floor of the Bombay High Court, the late Justice M.L.Pendse was presiding.
It was his preferred courtroom in those days, especially when he sat singly.
His board was moving at a brisk pace though it was a final hearing board.
Although my senior’s matter was quite a long way down the cause list no one took chances with this judge and my senior had warned me to stay put in the court..and “keep a watch”.
As a junior, one has to go through this phase which I call “board-watching days”.
The job basically involves fetching the chosen counsel from the Bar Library or Bar room and getting him in the courtroom well before your client’s case is called on for hearing.
This was a time before the advent of the mobile phone when apart from listening in on the court proceedings juniors could observe a lot of interesting things happening across the courtroom if only they were a bit vigilant.
I relished these opportunities to observe such “asides” which the arguing counsel and their assisting attorneys were in all probability too preoccupied even to notice.
For instance, one milord had this habit of tearing off corners from the ledger paper of pleadings in the post-lunch session to use them to remove remnants of lunch stuck between his teeth.
One may call this legal floss!
The concentration with which he undertook this activity, one wished he had expended on the intricacies of any matter before him.
Another milord of our HC, who retired as the CJ of another HC, used to tear out a longish strip of ledger paper from the outer margin of whichever page of the pleading was open before him at that moment, roll it into a fine hand-made earbud and dig away at the wax in his ears.. as if to emphasise the seminal importance of “hearing” in his court.
We had heard about litigants having to come to the court with clean hands but here was a milord who probably believed in hearing matters with clean ears too!
Alas, such amusing “observations” are increasingly difficult nowadays as anyone not “on his legs” in a courtroom is inevitably glued to the cell phone screen oblivious of all the quirky things happening around.
Thus they miss such unforgettable gems.
Well, coming back to Justice Pendse’s courtroom on that day..
A counsel who was arguing a matter noticed three puppies come out suddenly from under the raised dais on which the Hon’ble judge sat.
After a while, the mother of those pups, after traversing the back corridor entered the courtroom through the door reserved exclusively for the Hon’ble judges.
The arguing counsel’s attention was thoroughly distracted by this unanticipated intrusion.
It was evident that he was now concerned more about the dogs than the case at hand.
Then the bitch lay down in a far corner and started suckling her pups.
All this, right there in the court!
The counsel lost focus and started staring intently at the dogs and their activity.
Justice Pendse, unflappable and undisturbed as usual, just glanced once towards the scene as if it was an everyday occurrence and turning his attention back to the brief and the counsel inquired with his characteristic smile:
“Is there some problem Mr.Counsel?”
Counsel: “Milord, the pups are being fed by their mother right here during working hours of this Court”
Judge (looking surprised): So what has that got to do with this matter you are arguing?
Don’t tell me you want an adjournment on this ground?”
Counsel: “I am finding it very difficult to focus today milord. Could we take this matter up tomorrow?”
Judge: “That mother is doing her job.
The pups are doing theirs..and I am doing my job.
Why should you be reluctant to do yours?”
That settled it once and for all, there and then.
The hearing continued..
And perhaps some precious judicial time was saved from going to the dogs!