SOME judges of yester-years wrote very readable, memorable judgments.
For them, brevity was truly the soul of wit.
Gradually, judgments started becoming prolix, unreadable and boring.
Therefore, when one came across a judge who wrote well, it was a pleasure to read his/her judgments.
This story is about two judges who really wrote well.
They were sitting together on a bench assigned final hearing of Criminal Appeals in the Bombay High Court.
The senior judge had risen from the subordinate judiciary and had been a Registrar of BHC before elevation.
The junior judge was a direct appointee from the Bar after having been an Assistant Government Pleader attached to the Appellate Side Writ Cell of the BHC for many years.
Both judges were very witty and well-read.
Both belonged to minorities.
The senior judge was a Muslim and the junior judge was a Christian.
But temperamentally both were poles apart.
The senior judge was very curt and gruff while the junior judge was most pleasant and jovial.
It was an appeal against conviction.
A husband stood accused of killing his wife due to suspicion of her infidelity.
The defence counsel had picked many holes in the prosecution case and the prosecutor appeared to be unprepared.
This was not unusual in those days.
His singular contribution had been to irritate the senior judge by harping on irrelevant issues instead of meeting and rebutting the defence counsel’s contentions.
After about an hour, the judges had had enough.
The senior judge sarcastically thanked the prosecutor for his “assistance” and told him to sit down.
As was the senior judge’s habit, he straightaway summoned his PA and commenced dictation of the judgement in open court in a loud and clear voice.
The chastised prosecutor thus got an opportunity to open the case-papers for the first time and to go through them minutely with a frown on his face as the judge was dictating the judgment.
Ah! If only he could have done this reading before the hearing!
Now, how can he stop the inevitable?
He knew that the “dictator” would flare-up if interrupted while dictating.
Still, he decided to hear every word very carefully and wait for the judge to commit some factual mistake in the narration..so that he could get an opportunity to interrupt him legitimately and redeem some lost prestige.
As the narration reached the point of the jealous husband and his suspicions, the judge remembered Shakespeare.
And he brought Othello into the dictation.
While dealing with the accused husband’s feelings, the judge likened him to Othello!
The prosecutor was busy going through all the names of witnesses in the notes of evidence.
He knew he had finally nailed the judge!
Prosecutor: “I am sorry to interrupt you while dictating My Lord”
Judge(visibly irritated): “What do you want?”
Prosecutor: “I just heard you mention someone called Othello”
Judge: “Yes.What about it?”
Prosecutor (with a look of triumph on his face):
“Milord is making a big mistake.
There is no witness by the name of Othello in this entire paper-book!”
At this, the junior judge burst out laughing and almost fell off his chair.
After regaining composure he said:
“Mr.Prosecutor. We were referring to Shakespeare”
Prosecutor (pressing his point):
“Pardon me, milords.
But there is no Sheikh..whatever.. among witnesses either.”
This brought a smile even on the face of the senior judge whose trademark look by default always used to be a scowl.
Senior Judge: “Thank you for pointing this out to us.
Now can we continue our dictation and get this judgment done?”
Prosecutor: “I have done my duty milords.
I just wanted you to know that I have read this paper-book very thoroughly.
Maybe that Othello and that Sheikh..whatever figured in some other case you heard today.”