“Practical Legal Practice”

YOU may have heard of the saying: “The end justifies the means.”
Among the Appellate Side lawyers in the Bombay High Court, that was not just a credo but the standard operating procedure.
And it has stood the test of time.

Today, I shall narrate two anecdotal stories (‘Short Cuts’ and ‘Under Postal Certificate’) which exemplify “Practical Legal Practice” a subject which was never part of any Law College syllabus but which I, during my early days at the Bar, learnt “on the job” so to speak.

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Short cuts

Once an appellate side lawyer was representing 123 promotees in a service dispute involving their inter-se seniority vis-a-vis direct recruits.

The parties were desk officers in State Government service and were seeking promotion to the next promotional cadre as Deputy Secretaries.

There was urgency in the case as a status quo order was being sought by these promotees to thwart the direct recruits stealing a march over them in fixation of seniority in the promotional cadre.

However, there was a major problem.

Only around 90 out of the 123 petitioners were available in Bombay to sign the “vakalatnama” of that lawyer.

Others were at that moment in different towns of Maharashtra.

And there was no time available to ensure their attendance for signing.

So this lawyer ( we will call him “Adv.Jugaadu”) very coolly sent his clerk to get some assorted use-and-throw ball pens in different ink colours from a nearby stationery shop.

They just cost a rupee each in those days.

Then he called out to a bunch of juniors who were hanging around in the appellate side bar room and  requested them to take any pen of their choice and sign against the missing names of his 23 petitioners who were currently unavailable.

Everyone used different pens and scribbled the names of the missing petitioners..as indicated and dictated by Adv.Jugaadu.

Lo and behold!
Within a few minutes,the Vakalatnama was fully signed by all “petitioners”!
The writ petition was quickly readied and filed and the status quo order as desired was obtained in the nick of time.

Later, Adv.Jugaadu explained to the juniors who had ably “assisted” him in that important matter that such “short-cuts”, though normally undesirable and ethically wrong, were all in aid of a good cause.

He explained that such short-cuts were justifiable in emergency situations.
Far from complaining, the beneficiary petitioners whose “signatures” were affixed in this manner, were in fact extremely grateful to those who had “helped” them in getting the status quo order!

Apart from the tutorial in ‘Practical Legal Practice’, the reward for the juniors who had helped was the pen they had signed with.
It was theirs for keeps!

I retained mine as a memento for very long.

Maybe it is still lying around somewhere in a dusty drawer full of old memories.

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Once a young lawyer needed to prove that he had served the other side by registered post.

But on the other side was a seasoned litigant who had obviously mastered the art of “managing” the postmen.
They ensured that no proof of service ever made its way back to the sender!

This was happening regularly.

Neither the packet came back unserved, nor the proof of service in the form of an AD (acknowledgement due) card.

Frustrated, the young lawyer narrated his tale of woe to Adv.Jugaadu who was acknowledged by all as an expert in all the “tricks of the trade”.

Adv.Jugaadu advised the young lawyer to simply stuff a big brown paper envelope with “raddi” (waste paper) and attach a covering letter saying “In continuation of my earlier letters to you, enclosed please find the compilation of documents.”

Adv.Jugaadu further advised:
“Send this envelope ‘Under Postal Certificate’ and watch what happens.”

The result was electrifying!

The other side replied with a stinker sent by their solicitors recording that in none of the earlier letters received from the young lawyer was there any reference to or indication of any compilation which was going to be filed.

The indignant reply further stated that “to add insult to injury, only some old newspapers have been dispatched under certificate of posting!”

The young lawyer was overjoyed as he now had not only an acknowledgement but unassailable proof that all his earlier letters too had been duly served on the other side!

He came to the bar room during the lunch break and thanked Adv.Jugaadu profusely.

Adv.Jugaadu just smiled and responded:
“Young man, don’t ever forget that all is fair in love and litigation!”

When other juniors came to know of this super tactic taught by Adv.Jugaadu to that junior lawyer, they realised that the best book for junior lawyers is not any textbook or commentary but the unwritten, invisible code called ‘Practical Legal Practice’ by that famous non-author Adv.Jugaadu.