PATIALA HOUSE DAIRIES – PART II

My internship comes to an end tomorrow. I noticed quite a lot of this things not only about courts but also about Delhi. There are many things that you notice in a courthouse, if you have to go there every day after an exhausting journey of 1 and a half hour – yes, I take the metro- no, I do not get down at earlier stations so I don’t have to change at the junctions – yes, even then it is ONE and a HALF HOUR away. So quite a lot of interesting work but not that will interest all of you all… But the point is, many of you might wonder, real courts are very different from the courts we see in movies at least in India especially Patiala House Court. Disclaimer: The following post is just based on the court houses in and around Delhi.

Firstly, space. The last bollywood court room I saw was in Oh My God! starring Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar. The courtroom was so huge… I guess an actual courtroom of that size is something that I have only seen in the court of the Chief Justice of India i.e. in the Supreme Court of India. That one is actually quite big which huge arches, beautiful chandeliers and intricate work on the ceiling and the walls. The actual courtrooms are not any bigger than a matchbox, the witnesses are brought in the court by holding their hands like a kid, sometimes they are tried using ropes, but that is kinda it.

Second, the court rooms are not really that noisy and “Tareekh pe tareekh style”. This is not to say that that does not happen, it does but not always. Mostly lawyers just come in and ask for further dates for their cases. Interestingly, the judges do oblige them every time. Once I remember, when asking for another date the advocate told the judge, this actually happened believe you me, gave the judge a time slot in which he could give time to the matter at hand and thus wanted a date only in that period. If I remember correctly it was late August to early September. Also now that I think he did say that the client was going out of India and would in the country only during that period but still, the common people do not and should not dictate how the court works.

Third, nobody really picks up the Gita, Quran or Bible before giving their evidence in the courtroom. They actually just swear by their religion and state that they will say the truth and frankly nobody actually takes the oath seriously. It is administered by the nearest court official. This time I actually understood the meaning of ‘dasti’. The thing is that there is a Kashmiri word spelled and pronounced in the exact same way which means fast. So I used to guess the meaning as providing some document quickly. But turns out it means service by hand, things like notices, summons etc are not posted by the court to the person rather, the other party states that we will give it to them by hand.

Another very interesting thing I noticed, not related to the court but the DTC bus. Recently, I have started taking a bus from Khan Market to Patiala House which leaves me right outside the court. Takes me 5 bucks and 5 minutes, so kinda convenient. You can actually see this that the men take the seats that are reserved for women very seriously. If a woman is standing and a man is sitting on the reserved seat, they will immediately get up and offer the seat. This is not something that you see in the normal metro coaches because I guess, men have become so used to understanding the fact that women’s coach is the place where women should be.

Another interesting thing was…. God the newer buses run by the Delhi Government are so much cooler. Today I took the older DTC buses. I don’t understand why was it allowed to be a bus. all the lights were hanging out of their sockets. All you could hold to maintain your balance were straight iron circular bars running across the length of the bus. Every time the bus started after stopping at say the red light or the stop, the entire bus shook. You were so high above the ground and given the condition of the bus, I was kinda sure the bus will trip and not be able to maintain its balance.

 I will add more to the list as and when I remember, but I hope you like about this much. (the post’s idea came about thanks to The Horseman Hits Again)

PATIALA HOUSE DAIRIES – PART I

My first day at my new month long internship, at the Patiala House Court, was quite enlightening frankly. So the Patiala House Court was the residence of the Maharaja of Patiala and hence the name, eventually sold off to the Delhi Government when Privy purses were abolished in India. The Delhi government used it as their secretariat and eventually converted it to a court which is the Patiala House Court now. This conversion has caused various interesting variations in the designs of the courtrooms.

The first thing you could notice was that the acoustics were very bad, obviously because the rooms were not made to hear orators trying to save people’s lives or lands or families every day. I actually went around thinking that the rooms are very small for a royal house. Then I saw that some of the walls were false which made me realise that the actual rooms must have been split into twos or threes to accommodate so many courtrooms. But what I loved best was some rooms had fireplaces. Every time I saw a fireplace I could only think of lighting that fireplace in winters while matter are being heard. Man that would be cool!

The next thing I noticed is that this court house had signage that was even poorer than the Indian roads. I went around looking for courtroom 21 on someone’s advice, because my boss was in another district court and I had to wait till he would come, till then I was going around observing courts, I literally trudged on from room to room carrying my laptop on my back, I could not find that courtroom on my own. Everywhere the corridor split into two and I had to guess where to go. It made me feel like reading those Goosebumps novels where they give you a choice at the end of every page to choose your own ending. But when  I did find court room number 21, something happened that sent my brain into overdrive. So I went to that room at about 1:10 ish, so the judge was hearing the last matter before lunch. The attorneys presenting last left and then it was only I who was left in the courtroom in the audience. The judge asked me, which matter was I presenting… I just gave a very ambiguous response… she reiterated her question. I stated that I was an intern. If she could see into my brain, she would not actually see anything, just an all pervasive darkness and a loud howling and screeching and screaming.

You know when I first went to the Supreme Court, standing on those steps, I thought, this is where it all boils down to, the final word of law, where everyone gets justice, there is nothing beyond this. But when you come to a district court you realise wait, “The buck stops here”. These courts are a world in themselves. I remember seeing a courtroom where the lawyers and the clerk were talking among themselves, loudly, and the judge was dictating something to the stenographer. But what I really liked about this court is the fact that it seemed to be aware of an Indian’s inherent nature. They had a A4 sheet that clearly said that don’t enquire from the stenographer, because, an Indian will invariably ask the stenographer who seems the most approachable person around,the rest are either cloaked with judicial or police authorities.

Why I also feel that they are a world apart, is that the lawyers interjected the judge while he was speaking, I feared that the person would go in for Contempt of Court, but the judge just kinda…. you know…, unfazed. In one courtroom, the judge was dictating something to the stenographer and while doing so, he asked the lawyers whether the English was correct or not, in case you are interested, it was not. Though what irritated me the most was the fact that they had written everywhere that the first two rows were reserved for advocates. They reminded this to us around every corner.

Then I went on a tour of the new building, the Family court, it was nice but kinda reminded me of the Metro station in its design. On its second floor was a fast track court, it wasn’t fast at all. what I did not understand is that the lawyers, it appeared to me, were standing inside the witness box like structure. But the cherry the cake today was a centuries old question that a lawyer asked me today. So while sitting in my boss’ chamber, another lawyer came in to consult with him. He noticed me sitting there and asked if I was an intern. I answered in the affirmative. They both actually then started inquiring about my subjects. I told them. So mainly my law subjects were Contracts, Criminal Law restricted to IPC and Torts. The other lawyer asked me which one was my favourite. I told him Criminal.

Then came the question….. What is the difference between Section 299 and Section 300 of the IPC? I broke off into this explanation, pouring in all that could remember… how the awareness of the danger of your act is higher in murder and the emphasis on the act causing the death is more in Section 300 which is murder. And other stuff. But this other lawyer just said but you did not mention ‘intention’ in your explanation.When you have the intention to cause death then it is murder, if not then culpable homicide. Though I did not agree with the explanation, I did not contradict, after all he was a practicing lawyer I just wanted to explode. I talked about awareness… don’t you remember because if I restrict it to intention then what is the difference between 299 (Culpable Homicide) and Section 304 (Negligent death)… Ok wait, all of you all might not get it, sorry got carried away. But the icing was that my boss took my side and stated that my explanation was quite correct, as well… as well.

 Though all in all as I said it was quite enlightening and actually fun. 🙂