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Judgment reserved

CONTINUING my anecdotes about judgments, I must share with you that a few years ago, I got to know that some of the landmark judgments attributed to a Chief who was an import into Bombay High Court from Delhi were apparently penned by his highly competent associate/court master!

The said gentleman is now a practicing advocate and after a few pegs with friends starts spilling so many beans on the “Chiefs” he loyally served that the script of any Bollywood potboiler will pale in comparison to the beans he spills!

According to this “source”, another import from Delhi High Court used to get his judgments written by the short-listed District Judges who were due for promotion to the Bombay HC.
Apparently this was not to shirk his own responsibility but to give them “practice” for later..somewhat like having to pass the prelims before appearing for the final examination!

There was also a judge who was transferred to the Bombay High Court from Gujarat.
His English was abysmally sub-standard.
He could hardly construct proper sentences in the English language.
Most of his brief orders were incomprehensible.

This judge had founded a law college in his native place which was in a backward area of Saurashtra and prior to his elevation as a judge he had been part of its Governing Council.

His modus operandi in BHC was to reserve judgments in all final hearing matters and push off every fortnight to his native place.
When he returned, he would list all the reserved matters for “pronouncement of judgments”.
The rumour was that he carried the case-papers of all those matters with him to his native place and got the law professors of his law college to write the judgments for him!

These rumours attained some credibility because if ten judgments were pronounced on a single day by this milord, each was written in a completely different style!
Even the same words were misspelled in different ways!

But what takes the cake as far as “judgment writing” is concerned is the narration I heard not too long ago from a senior solicitor friend whose daughter was interning with a milord who loved being in the news.

This milord was an absolute workaholic and single handedly did the work of at least three milords in any assignment he took on.
He sat in the courtroom way beyond court-working hours.

This milord had devised a unique system of judgment writing.
Unlike the other milords mentioned earlier who outsourced the job to senior lawyers or aspiring subordinates, this milord broke new ground.
He encouraged competent youngsters!

He recruited highly talented final year law students as interns and inter alia, as part of their professional training, asked them to sit in his court, hear arguments of counsel, read the pleadings and submissions and discuss the case with him.
Then as per his advice and guidance they were to prepare draft judgments.

All interns worked on all matters.
And all submitted their draft judgments to milord.
Milord then chose the best draft, settled it and dictated it as his judgment!
Apparently, this was how it was done in the USA.

My solicitor friend was truly overjoyed when he showed me an order passed by milord disposing of a notice of motion.
“My daughter has written this!” he exclaimed!
Two respected seniors had argued the case on either side for one full day citing several Supreme Court judgments and this order has been prepared by my daughter who is just a final year law student in GLC!”

I congratulated the proud father.
He, a senior partner in a top firm of solicitors, had found nothing unusual or wrong in milord’s methodology for writing judgments.
On the contrary, he was full of praise for such innovative methods of dispensation of justice.
And I did not have the heart to spoil his mood by expressing my reservations about such methods in the Indian context, on that momentous day.

After reading all these tales about the writing of judgments, you may want to know what is my final verdict about all the unusual instances I have set out about judgment writing?

Such things have happened, are happening and will continue to happen.
When it comes to judgments, should we become judgmental?
That is a moot question.

As one of my “judgment writer” colleagues has now climbed to the Apex Point of his career, the wisest thing for me to say on this issue is:

“Judgment reserved”