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Milord’s flyover

Once upon a time, the division Bench of the Bombay High Court, which was assigned to hear matters pertaining to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), was manned by two of the most volatile and temperamental milords of the Bombay High Court. Many considered them to be pompous, rude and overbearing.

The municipal law officers confessed to friends at the bar that they often woke up in the middle of the night due to nightmares about being tongue-lashed in the court by these two milords. Entering the court of these two milords was akin to entering a hallowed mansion closely guarded by a bloodhound and a bulldog.

The milords, of course, fancied themselves to be the best watchdogs of the Constitution.

I shall first narrate an anecdote involving the junior milord. The story involving the senior milord can be adjourned for two weeks. These anecdotes will offer readers a glimpse of what members of the Bar had to face during that turbulent judicial assignment.

Here is the first anecdote. One day, the junior milord suddenly asked an MCGM counsel: “Who has put the huge flower pots along the flyover?”

The counsel replied that it was done to beautify the road. That triggered an outburst: “Do you guys realise the value of that flyover? It is the first of its kind in the entire country. An engineering marvel when it was built. People from all over come to see it. One of the finest engineers in India has designed it. And you dare to spoil and damage it by putting flower pots on it?”

The counsel, who was not prepared for this lambasting, said he would surely look into the matter. 

Milord: “We want the superintendent of gardens to personally give an explanation. Keep him present in court, else we shall summon your commissioner! Have you seen the muddy brown water staining that beautiful black road early in the morning? And you intend to do this daily! Ever thought about the additional load these huge concrete pots are imposing on the back of this ageing landmark? 

Your people have no sense of aesthetics or beauty. But we are not helpless. We are warning you. Those pots must be removed forthwith! Next time we are crossing Peddar Road, we don’t want to see any of those ugly pots. Such eyesores! And yes, the flyover must be cleaned thoroughly and restored to its former beauty.”

The MCGM top brass knew that to displease a milord on the Bench which would be hearing all their cases for the next eight weeks or more would be hazardous, if not to the physical health of the old flyover then certainly to the mental health of the municipal officers attending court.

So the pots were quietly removed overnight and milord’s flyover was saved from being soiled. Milord however did not let go of the MCGM until the flyover was scrubbed and cleaned to his satisfaction!

While no one could pinpoint the reason for this suo motu outburst from the junior milord, the gossip at the Bar at that time was that he had become so agitated not only because he considered himself an activist, environment-friendly judge but also because he was related to the renowned engineer who had designed that flyover.

Tongues had wagged then about milord’s keen interest in the well-being of that flyover! A senior counsel had quipped that putting muddy pots on that flyover was like throwing mud on milord’s concrete elder brother. Unforgivable!

Milord later started sitting as a single judge and terrorising unknown juniors while kow-towing to the revered seniors. Newspapers were happy to report his tongue-lashings and proactive orders. All those who could afford it, went in appeal.

I happened to be in the appeal court when someone sought an urgent circulation in a challenge to one of milord’s orders. Just the mention of his name was magic! The division Bench granted immediate ad interim stay.

Later, after staying several orders, the senior appeal court milord remarked in open court when yet another lambast of the junior milord was carried in appeal: “The only good thing in this order is the English!”

That quip still continues to be quoted with glee by members of the Bar.