Monday, July 31, 2017
Forty One years in Supreme Court - Diary Entry August 1, 1976
On July 31, 1976 Hazari Ji the driver and Ramu Ji the zamadar of my father, Justice D.P. Gupta, Judge, High Court of Rajasthan came to drop me, a twenty one and half years law graduate from Jaswant College, University of Jodhpur, on Delhi Mail at the Jodhpur Railway Station. Delhi Mail left at 2.10 pm to reach Delhi at 6.00 am in the morning today. My father had remained as a junior associate (1950 -1958 at Jaipur, Rajasthan) with Mr. C.L. Agrawal a Senior Advocate and a doyen of the Rajasthan High Court and his eldest son Mr. S.C. Agrawal after completing Bar at Law from London, was practicing law at Supreme Court of India. We had, had a lunch meeting with Mr. S.C. Agarwal about two weeks back in Delhi at Kwality Restaurant, Connaught Placeand my father had requested him to associate me in his office, to which he had readily agreed. My father had fixed for my residence for some time with Mr. N.K. Sanghi, a Member of Parliament from Jodhpur and a close family friend, at Humayun Road, New Delhi.
Today, August 1, 1976 a Sunday morning I reached Old Delhi Railway Station at about 6.15 am, with a bedding and an attaché containing apart from my garments, a Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Chidbhavanand, autographed and given to me by my grandfather, complete works of Swami Vivekananda in seven volumes, four books from Aurobindo including Savitri, essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson and my three diaries in which I used to scribble and place ideas from where ever they came to me, particularly the books I had read and I used to read a lot. I was always enthused about reading and learning. There was an insatiable desire to read, to learn, to understand, to analyse and to know the truth.
My grandfather was a morning walker, a habit, I picked up from him while I was in class IV as he used to take me and my elder brother to a library in the public park. I moved from Phantom and Mandrake comics early in life to biographies of Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Chanakya, Vikramaditya, MaharanaPratap, and abridged versions of Shakespeare - Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, Tempest and many many more. He also continued to tell me a story each evening, when we were together, since I was the age of 5 till about the age of 14, which cover the entire Bhaagwat, Ramaayan, Mahabhaarat, Puraan, Panchtantraand others.
My mother used to subscribe to Hind Pocket Books, 8 to 10 books used to come by post every month, it was like rain on parched land. As I moved to class VIII, I read Col. Ranjeet (34 of them), Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyay (Devdas ++ ), I also made serious effort in vain to learn Bangla to read him in original. Bankim Chandra, Acharya Chatursen, Shivani, Amrita Pritam, Gulshan Nanda, Krishan Chander. GurudattJi was a close friend to my father and he used to give a huge lot of books to him whenever we visited his place at Delhi. I read him extensively Ganga Ki Dhara (5 vol.), KhandarBolRahein Hein (4 vol.) and many many more, he was making serious efforts to bring Hindu and Muslim Community together, in his own way.
As I moved to class X (1969) and further, I read James Hadley Chase (76 of them, every one that I could lay my hands on), Ian Flaming –James Bond (18 of them from Goldfinger to The Man with a Golden Gun), Alistair MacLean (28 of them from Guns of Naverone, Where Eagles Dare to Circus), Harold Robbins (Stiletto ,79 Park Avenue, to The Pirates). By the time I was in class XI and entered college the scene shifted to classics Jane Austin, Bronte sisters, Earnest Hemingway, Erich Segal. While pursuing my Law Degree, I heard Swami ChinmayanandJi (12th Chapter of Shrimat Bhagwad Geeta, Prashno Upanishad andNarad Bhakti Sutra) and that opened the gates of freedom for Self, read Bhagwat Gita (Tilak, Vinobha, Gandhi, Radhakrishnan, Satyamitranand Ji), Swami Vivekananda, Sri Arobindo, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bertrand Russell (History of Western Philosophy, Theory of Social Reconstruction), Biography of Philosophers.
From old Delhi Railway Station, I took a three wheeler and went to MPs flat at Humanyun Road, where I had to stay for some time till an alternate, more permanent arrangement was made. The flat at the ground floor, at Humayun Road was occupied by Mr. AvinashSanghi son of Mr. N.K. Sanghi, a servant and an old maid as the Parliament was not in session. Mr. N.K. Sanghi, the M.P. had gone to his constituency, Jodhpur.
Around 8.30 am, I made a telephone call to Mr. S.C. Agarwal, who told me to reach 20-A, Lawyers Chambers in Supreme Court, on Bhagwandas Road, around 10.00 am, when he would be there. I took a three wheeler at about 9.15 am and requested to be taken to Supreme Court at Bhagwandas Road. At 9.30 am, I reached Bhagwandas Road and entered the premises of Supreme Court through Gate No. D. It was a great sight of the magnanimous balance shaped building, with a huge staircase and pillars standing before me, with lush green sprawled lawns. I had visited it once earlier with my father in May 1964, when Justice Gajendragadkar was the chief justice and he was sitting with four other judges in the chief justice court. As I turned on the right and entered into chambers block, through the porch, right in front was 20-A Lawyers chambers, with increasing numbers on the right till 48 and reducing on the left till 1. There was a brown signboard attached on the right top of the door and read ‘Ramamurthy & Co.’ and below that was written D.P. Singh and S.C.Agrawal.
The door of the chamber was locked and I just walked up and down in the corridor of the chambers, familiarizing myself with the surroundings around and have a feel of place where I had to spend many years to come. In about 10 minutes a middle aged person came and opened the lock of the chamber. I told him that I was a law graduate from Jodhpur and had come to meet and work with Mr. S.C. Agrawal. The person told me that he was Mr. Sikka, the senior clerk of the law firm and looked at me with a curious smile, meaning of which is difficult to decipher and walked into the chamber, without speaking a word.
It was fairly a large room, with two wooden executive chairs, two large executive wooden tables stacked with files, leaving just enough space to get into a room on the side and four chairs in the front. There as another large table on the left, with two chairs behind it and three chairs in front, having a type writer in front of one of the three chairs. Between this large table and the wall immediately on the left was another long table from the door to the end of the wall which was heaped with files. There was just enough space to enter to the two chairs on the left behind the table. At the end of the room there was a gate on the right and as I walked in and peeped into it, I saw a table with two typewriters, a cyclostyling machine and the room packed with files from wall to wall. There was a gate at the back which opened into a parking space. Mr. Sikka who had entered the room was standing there and looked at me. We smiled at each other and I came back to the room. I took a seat on one of the two chairs behind the large table, immediately on the left of the entrance. Behind the chair was All India Reporter (AIR) from top of the wall, corner to corner, I checked up, it was from 1914, complete set as was in my father’s office. In the front was Supreme Court Reports (SCR) 1950 onwards, the last row had Supreme Court Cases (SCC) 1969 onwards and bare Acts. I wondered where the text books were.
I looked around to have a feel of the chamber and picked up 1950 SCR. As I looked at the list of Hon’ble Judges on the first page, I saw name of two ad hoc judges, Hon’ble Justice R.S. Naik and Justice Khaliluzzaman. A very interesting fact and I quickly turned over the pages to find where they were figuring and I saw four (4) judgments delivered by Supreme Court of India (Hyderabad), where their names were figuring. I turned over the pages and found the ‘Proceedings at the Inaugural Sitting of the Supreme Court of India, In the Court House, New Delhi, on January 28, 1950’. It made a wonderful reading and nothing could have been a better document to enable me to understand the vision statement of Supreme Court on my first day at Supreme Court. I continued to read it, just aware of anybody entering the room.
At about 10 am Mr. S.C. Agrawal came and occupied the first of the two chairs at the end of the room. I got up and greeted him. Mr. Agarwal welcomed me and gave me a big broad smile and with a gesture of his hand told me to take the chair on which I was sitting. Mr. Sikka came out immediately, gave Mr. Agarwal some letters and files and Mr. Agrawal signed the letters, gave them back to Mr. Sikka and got busy with the files. After some time another advocate, around 45 yrs. of age entered the room, almost like one of my father’s associates and occupied the chair next to the chair on which I was sitting. He looked around and opened a file and started working on the file. I continued to read and kept looking at Mr. Agrawal, for an eye contact.
After some time Mr. Agrawal looked up and discussed something with the associate sitting next to me and after the discussion was over, looked at me and said “Aruneshwar, Mr. Francis, Mr. V.J. Francis” and looking at him said “Francis, Aruneshwar is a law graduate from Jodhpur and will be working here”. I got up and shook hands with Mr. V.J. Francis. Mr. Francis gave a very warm welcome smile and as I touched his hand I realized that his hands was unusually dry and rough. The first feeling I got with the touch was that he had gone through a lot and a very tough life. I asked him which of the chair I should occupy as my seat.
Mr. Francis, with a big smile said “Two chairs on those two table there, are for Mr. D.P. Singh, Senior Advocate and Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha from the State of Bihar and Mr. S.C. Agrawal occupies the chair on which he is sitting, I sit on the chair on which I am sitting and the chair next to me is a musical chair, you are occupying it at present. Nobody will tell you to get up, but if somebody is sitting on it, you cannot request him to get up either. We have to get ready for tomorrow matters. Just watch and observe. You will soon pick up something”.
Suddenly, around 11 ‘o’ clock the activities in the chamber got moving and energized. Everybody seemed to be rushing here and there. Mr. Sikka rushed with the cause list and some papers out of the chamber. I looked up at Mr. Francis, with a question mark. To my surprise Mr. Francis smiled and said that the boss was there. I had never thought, that there was another boss around. After some time Mr. S.C. Agarwal got up to move out of the chamber, with two files in brown folders in his hand and with a gesture asked me to come with him. I got up to move behind Mr. S.C. Agarwal, who by that time had got out of the room and had turned left. At the same moment Mr. Sikka entered the room and by the time I could get out of the room and look left in the corridor Mr. S.C. Agarwal had disappeared into the oblivion. I was puzzled, it would be unwise on my part to go back and ask somebody. I, therefore, moved slowly and cautiously peeping into each chamber, through the glass fitted in the doors. As I crossed chamber 26, I saw a fleeting glimpse of Mr. S.C. Agrawal sitting in the end of the room and discussing something to another middle aged gentleman. I opened the door and slowly and cautiously walked into the chamber, which unlike 20A had a strong spring closure to close it, on its own silently.
As the door opened, Mr. S.C. Agrawal looked up as if he had forgotten that I was following him and continued the discussions with the gentleman. With a gesture he asked me to take a chair on a large black conference table, with a glass top on the left of the entrance. Every inch of both the walls on both the sides of the chamber was covered with books and books, text books on the right and English Law Reports on the left, a great place to be in. I could spend hours and hours here and satisfy my insatiable desire to read and read more, to learn and learn more, to know and know more. Slowly as I sat down and watched the discussion, I felt the existence of a very powerful personality like my father in front of Mr. S.C. Agarwal. Both Mr. S.C. Agrawal and the gentleman had thick brown folders in their hands. Mr. S.C. Agrawal was telling some facts to the gentleman, who continued to ask questions and make notes on the first page, of the thick brown folder, called brief. The gentleman told Mr. Agrawal about some judgments and Mr. Agrawal continued to give the citations of the judgments out of his memory, which the gentleman continued to write on his brief. Soon they finished holding the conference on all the four briefs.
After the conference was over and Mr. S.C. Agrawal was about to get up, he looked up at me and then at the gentleman and said “This is Aruneshwar from Jodhpur, son of Justice D.P. Gupta of Rajasthan, one of the 13 judges of High Court in MISA case. Aruneshwar, Garg Sahib”. Mr. Garg looked at me with a smile, Mr. S.C. Agrawal got up and left the room. I also got up as Mr. S.C. Agarwal left the room and continued to look at Mr. R.K. Garg for I expected him to say something. Mr. Garg had a pile of books on the table in front of him, some of them were in Urdu and others in English and he continued to make some notes on the brief. After sometime Mr. R.K. Garg closed the brief in hand and looked up straight at me and said:
“So you are 26 years late in the profession, young man”.
“But, I was born that way” said I not correctly understanding the basis and reasoning of his statement.
“Supreme Court started in 1950 and you have come in 1976, how you think you will understand what Supreme Court is doing. There is only one way young man, if you are really serious in the profession, start reading 1950 onwards and 1976 backwards and continue to make notes. After you have read at least 10 years each side and continue to update with what is going on, you will have some idea of what Supreme Court is doing. Supreme Court has to lay down law for the entire country and you have to know what law is as interpreted by Supreme Court, what the basis of that law is and what law has to be laid down, if you do not know the direction of law, the way Supreme Court thinks, how can you assist the Supreme Court in performing its duties and if that doesn’t happen the institution will collapse. So read, write, analyse and discuss and see what is happening here”. It was a perfect statement, an articulate exposition, every word made sense, there was not a word that was out of context. Logic, direction and experience all clearly stated in the minimal possible words.
“I will do it to the best of my ability,Sir” said I, feeling elevated and looking forward for the cherished task at hand and the presence of a powerful personality in action. I said “Good Day, Sir” and left the room as I realised that Mr. Garg had picked up a book and had got engrossed in the same. I came out of the chamber and saw the name plate, Mr. R.K. Garg on one side of the door and Ramamurthy & Co on the other side. I wondered who would be Mr. Ramamurthy and I saw chamber no. 27 right in front of chamber no. 26 with the name M.K. Ramamurthy. Someday I will know it all, thought I and walked back to the chamber no. 20 A.
When I came back to 20A Lawyers Chambers, I realised that some other Advocate was sitting on the chair on which I was sitting earlier and talking to a client sitting in front of him. Mr. Francis looked at me and smiled, as if saying – “Look I had told you.” I took the seat in front of Mr. Francis, picked up 1950 SCR and started reading it.
Around 6.30 pm the activities in the chamber were over, everybody had left. I requested Mr. Sikka, if can sit over in the chamber late and that if I could get a duplicate key of the chamber, for I would be reaching at 9.00 am the next morning and would like to stay late for I had seen my father working late night till 2 am during my 18 yrs. of conscious life with him at Jodhpur (1958 – 1976). Mr. Sikka, looked at me, smiled and said that it would be possible for him the next day to give me a duplicate key of the chamber, though it was very unusual request, never made by any advocate yet and that the chambers in Supreme Court would finally close at 9 pm. I came back to Humayun Road, took a bath and walked on Shahaajahan Road till India Gate to have a feel of air of Delhi and the surroundings. Akhsay Sanghi told me that he was going to Chelmsford Club for squash and that behind Humanyun Road was Khan Market. I did not understand much, for I was neither a club goer nor market hunter.
I have come to take up law as the calling of my life and have to live a life with dignity in which market and clubs had no place. Though, I have not the remotest idea of what will unfold in time. Time will unfold all that has to come and I have the blessings of my grandfather and support of the divine…