MANY people without anything worthwhile to do with their time spend it in front of their televisions, computers or mobile phone screens watching so-called ‘entertainment programmes’.
The success of sitcoms depends on the Television Rating Points (TRPs) they manage to garner.
Ever since some high courts started live-streaming their proceedings, sitcom producers are facing tough competition.
These live proceedings streamed from the courtrooms into sitting rooms, kitchens and bedrooms are so interesting that many milords have become celebrities with huge fan followings.
Quite understandably, criminal and matrimonial matters are more popular with the viewers and are being followed with great interest. YouTube video clips of interesting bits of courtroom drama and humour have notched up a large viewership.
Witnessing such success in smaller high courts, many lawyers from Mumbai are bemoaning the absence of such opportunities for members of the Bar and Bench in the Mumbai courts to display their undeniable talents.
Recently, after witnessing the angry outburst of a judge from Gujarat High Court directed at his colleague on the Bench, lawyers feel that his subsequent expression of remorse ,however perfunctory it might have been, was attributable only to the live-streaming of the proceedings.
It was only because the performance was being live-streamed and recorded that such misbehaviour came to light.
This is cited as one more reason why live-streaming of proceedings is desirable from all the courtrooms— at least from all the high courts to begin with.
Mumbai lawyers feel our milords can out-perform milords of other high courts if live streaming starts from Mumbai.
After all, Bollywood too is in Mumbai.
Recent narratives of courtroom incidents eye-witnessed by litigants and lawyers alike make me realise what a range of dramatic performances from melodrama to comic farce we have missed because they were not captured on camera.
To recount just a few examples of what viewers have missed.
Act One, Scene One
A senior milord is assigned taxation matters. He is all at sea having never been taxed with such heavy matters during his years at the Bar.
But ignorance is not bliss when you need to make up your mind.
Luckily for the senior, his junior colleague is supposed to be a tax-expert.
Yet senior milord repeatedly attempts to assert himself.
Junior milord, however, keeps correcting him much to the amusement of those watching.
Senior is not at all amused at being corrected like a school-boy … that too by a raw junior on the Bench.
The junior is soon jettisoned and branded as an arrogant fellow.
Poor chap now sits all alone hearing old matters nobody wanted to touch.
He realises that hell hath no fury like a senior humiliated.
Act Two, Scene One
In another court, Lord Pompous likes to lord it over junior colleagues. Most of them surrender and suffer silently … especially if they are still additional judges awaiting permanency.
It is a tested formula that sycophancy is the quickest route to permanency on the Bench. Conversely, dissent could lead to eternal damnation.
Lord Pompous hears a designated senior counsel for 45 minutes. When the opposing side’s relatively junior lawyer gets up to reply, he is barked at ferociously and told to shut up.
Unexpectedly, the junior judge takes up cudgels for the junior lawyer. “We have heard the senior counsel at length. Can we not in all fairness give at least 10 minutes to the junior?”
Lord Pompous cannot believe his ears! An audible squeak has emanated from the junior. Oh! How indiscipline has crept upon the Bench, he thinks.
Since a packed courtroom is witnessing the show, Lord Pompous has to somehow relent and hear the other side too.
Though it does not affect the decision … which goes in favour of the side represented by the senior counsel.
Act Two, Scene Two
A law student has challenged what he thinks is an exorbitant hike in enrollment fees by the Bar Council.
Lord Pompous starts threatening the petitioner’s advocate even before he opens his mouth: “How dare you file such cases? Are you withdrawing or shall we dismiss with strictures? Those who cannot afford the fees should not join this profession.”
Before the junior judge or the petitioner’s advocate can react, Lord Pompous begins dictating: “Petitioner’s advocate seeks to withdraw this writ petition.”
The junior judge cannot stomach this anymore.
Without looking at Lord Pompous, he asks the Bar Council lawyer for the rationale behind the steep fee hike. He openly opines that students from mofussil areas cannot afford such exorbitant fees. Everyone is not from a privileged background, he says.
Lord Pompous is seething with rage but swallows it like a bitter pill and booms to the steno: “Ok. Rule. No interim relief.”
Shortly thereafter, the audacious junior is packed off to an unimportant single judge assignment. He is replaced by Justice Amenable whose only contribution to any matter is a blissful smile and total silence.
Lord Pompous continues to rule his Bench.
Act Three, Scene One
Lord Arbitrary’s Bench is hearing a challenge to an Order to auction a debtor’s property.
An advocate gets up and says he has filed an intervention application as he fears there is collusion going on to swallow the property at dirt cheap price.
Lord Arbitrary blurts out: “Dismissed!”
No one knows what is being dismissed and why. They are told that the petition is dismissed for reasons which would follow later on.
The intervenor dares to ask: “What about my intervention application milord?”
Arbitrary J: “Dismissed. With ₹1 lakh as costs for filing a frivolous application and wasting the court’s time.”
Advocate: “Milords didn’t even hear me.”
Arbitrary J: “₹2 lakh.”
Advocate: “Milords may at least read my application.”
Arbitrary J: “₹3 lakh.”
Advocate: “I will take this to the Supreme Court.”
Arbitrary J: “₹4 lakhs.”
Advocate: “This is most unfair.”
Arbitrary J: “₹5 lakh… and call out the next matter.”
These are just a few scenes which viewers have missed because the proceedings of our glorious high court are not being live-streamed to the public.
Such things happen day in and day out. I am at a loss to understand why live-streaming is not being implemented in the Bombay High Court.
In fact, one of the most ‘entertaining’ judges, whose quotable quotes reporters love to report prominently in the print media, is also one of the most net-savvy judges.
We, the people, are happy with hybrid options for court-proceedings but we still eagerly await live-streaming from Mumbai courts.
Tried and tested channels of entertainment have become predictable and boring. Courtrooms, on the other hand, are full of possibilities.
For juniors too, live streaming would be an invaluable aid of learning. From some courts they may learn the law … from others they may not believe what they saw!