What a relief!

In the good old days, many members of the Appellate-Side Bar Association of the Bombay High Court used to start active practice after retiring from subordinate judiciary. Most of them hardly had any work in courts but religiously came and sat on their fixed chairs in the Bar room on every working day doing what busy lawyers found impossible to do: Time-pass!

During our raw junior days, before we too became busy, these old men would love to have us as their audience and regale us with stories from their days on the subordinate benches… which usually meant sometime in the 1960s.

The narrative which follows is one such gem which I recall.

Upon being posted at a “god-forsaken” (his description) mofussil court as a Civil Judge Junior Division, his first posting, this city-bred young judge had not bargained for “quarters” which were carved out of a cowshed in the vicinity of a decrepit well and a half-constructed unplastered brick structure located in a barren field which passed-off as his court.

On the very first day in that court, during the lunch recess, the judge asked his attendant to lead him to the washroom. The attendant just smiled and pointed out of the window at the empty plot: “You can choose any place.”

The judge could not believe it.

He said let me go to my quarters and return. But the attendant assured him that there too there was no such “special facility” and he would have to rise before dawn and go with a lota onto the nearby sugarcane fields. Being a judge, he could of course choose a field of his choice away from the commoners.

Unable to control his urge to relieve himself, the judge told the attendant that he would like to go but all those litigants and lawyers loitering about outside the courthouse must be cleared out first from the place. The attendant said he would fix that problem if only the judge followed him.

They made their way through the people waiting outside for the lunch recess to end till they had crossed all of them and reached an open spot. But by now all of them were staring at the judge from wherever they were standing or sitting. In that open flat field, everyone could see everyone else.

The judge, getting irritable by the minute, said to the attendant, “I cannot do it with all of them staring.”

The attendant replied, “Sir, tell me when you are ready and I will make the announcement.”

Judge: “What announcement?”

Attendant: “I will announce that you need privacy to pee.”

Judge (incredulously): “You will what?”

Attendant:”They are used to this. Just watch!”

Then he shouted at the top of his voice, “Turn away your eyes everybody till I give you the signal. Judge saheb wants to relieve himself.”

The judge told us that try as hard as he could, he did not manage to urinate for quite a while… testing everyone’s patience… but finally got the job done with a lot of coaxing from the attendant, who kept reassuring him that many of his predecessors too had the same “difficulty” initially.

What a relief that was! Now he could go back into the courtroom and attend to others seeking other kinds of relief.

After the judge was done, the attendant shouted an all-clear and a collective cheer went up from the crowd spread across the barren field.

On his way back the crowd parted to let the judge pass through. It was almost like inspecting a guard of honour at a municipal primary school.

The very next day, our judge got four tin sheets fixed in the far corner of that open ground at his own cost. He had probably realised that only justice should be seen to be done.

The Leaflet