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. 🙂