The recent tough actions taken by Chief Justice S K Kaul and some of his colleagues in the Madras High Court (MHC) promise to bring some order and discipline in the court premises. The MHC had earned a great reputation for the brilliance of its legal luminaries, both judges and lawyers.
In fact, the reputation was so high that the MHC lawyers were in great demand for representing cases in other high courts and in the Supreme Court. This tribe has rapidly vanished. Aren’t we witnessing the import of lawyers from Delhi, Mumbai and elsewhere to argue cases of our political leaders?
The induction of a large number of lawyers with little equipment, capability and training has contributed to a unhealthy divide between a small number of lawyers at the top who have lion’s share of lucrative briefs and the large number of grossly underemployed lawyers with little briefs and income.
This has led to division of Tamil Nadu on cast, regional and local patterns. There has been increased reliance on patronage by the government both by the central and the state for appointments and briefs leading to sharp divisions on political lines. The patronage of the two leading political parties AIADMK and DMK, which have been assuming power alternatively over the last 25 years, has sharpened the divide. These divisions begin right at law colleges and continue with greater vigour at the high court.
The strident demands for reservations right up to the appointment of judges, has been deplorable. Conditions reached such limits that Chief Justice R K Agarwal in his farewell address on remitting office had this to say: “Believe me. Many of my colleagues here have privately expressed their desire to seek transfers to other courts… In my career of more than 37 years, nobody, be it my friends or foes, had ever raised their voice while talking to me. But here on one fateful day, a respected colleague hurled invectives at me and cast aspersions at the affairs of this court… I was deeply pained to see some of my rakhi sisters being in the forefront of the unfortunate events. I request all of you to think twice before taking such a step… Do not cut the tree of the branch on which you are sitting. Remember the respect, status, reputation got in the society was all because of the great institution… It takes years to build a reputation and only a moment to destroy it. The danger is from within and not from outside.” Succession of chief justices failed to correct the malaise. Thus the agitations continued and culminated in a day long dharna even in the Chief Justice’s court.