Apr 172008

“I retrieved some disturbing recorded moments from the time…don’t quite show us in a good light. Lawyers beating lawyers…lawyers beating elderly politicians…lawyers being burnt alive…chambers being torched. You were part of that movement?”
Some forty years from now, a young lawyer wishing to write a paper on the centenary of his country surfs the internet and comes across a four-decade-old document that is neither a legal treatise nor an editorial but possibly, a comment posted on a blog on the state of his chosen and noble vocation.

“You had us almost believing that you were a brave and honourable lot and that your cause was just and that you were worth defending.

“You had us believe that you were the upholders of all that was lawful moral and decent.

“You had us believe that every step you took was deep-rooted in preserving and interpreting the letter of the law.

“You had propelled your movement to become the bulwark against all that ‘was unconstitutional and illegal’.”

“You had us believe that you were the moral voice and the face of justice in the country.

“And yet…

“You are today being perceived by the world as a gang of scofflaws — worse, you have become a gang of bully boys and vigilantes who choose to beat up an elderly man simply because he holds a different political point of view and threaten the media that has championed your cause, not to report the incident.”

The young student flags this piece and now searches for another link to the times. He finds it. It’s a sound-bite:

“I recently heard that Asif Zardari in some moment of reflection and wisdom was heard to say that he was no longer prepared to support the “restoration of judicial ‘personalities’…instead he wanted to see a comprehensive judicial reform package”.

He continues surfing and comes across these prophetic lines:

“The signs of a gathering storm become more evident as dark clouds ominously gain strength over the dry parched land…the countdown to what could lead to a tectonic shift in the shape of things to come…”

He retrieves the next day’s papers. The headline is stark: 6 lawyers burnt alive. Vehicles torched.

The editorial of another daily laments: Reprehensible Conduct.

Tucked away in a corner is another news item: “Hindu hanged to death for alleged blasphemy.” No public protests, no suo moto proceedings, not even the usual pro bono publico letters.

Driving home down Constitution Avenue he pauses at a red light. He sees a distinguished-looking man with grey hair with a walking stick taking his evening walk. He finds a place to park his car and retraces his steps towards the grey-haired man. Greeting him politely the young lawyer asks:

“Your lordship, would you mind terribly if I joined you?”

“By all means, young man. I normally cut across this park. You are welcome, if you can keep pace with me!”

The young lawyer falls in step with the distinguished gentleman’s brisk gait.

His lordship points to a garden bench with his walking stick.

“Care to sit down? Something is troubling you.”

“Yes there is, sir. Do you really think you should be walking about like this…without a guard, without any security detail? I mean it is dangerous.”

“Not really! I am only a judge, young man. I neither prosecute nor persecute.” He pauses to observe a small boy learning to ride a bicycle, aided by his father, peddling furiously. The boy looks over his shoulder to see if his father’s reassuring hand is still there. It isn’t. He is on his own. The judge smiles to himself and continues.

“You know when I was elevated to the bench, I realised that the first casualty of my appointment would be my social life. So I opted to isolate myself from the usual circle of friends. The less high profile you are, the less chances there are of you becoming controversial. The other and more important realisation was how little time one has left to set things right that you know to be wrong. But enough about me, what is on your mind?”

“Sir, were you there during the 2008 Lawyer’s Movement?”

“I was not just there, I was a part of it? Why?”

“I retrieved some disturbing recorded moments from the time…don’t quite show us in a good light. Lawyers beating lawyers…lawyers beating elderly politicians…lawyers being burnt alive…chambers being torched. You were part of that movement?”

“I said I was part of the movement, not the ugliness that you are referring to. The movement took a body blow that day. I suppose you could say “it was the best of times and it was the worst of times…a tale of two cities you know! Broken hearted I left the movement that day.”

“So where did it all go so terribly wrong?”

“When somehow along the way it allowed axe grinding politicians to jump aboard its raft, that’s when it became unwieldy and uncontrollable.”

“And then?”

“Like all great movements that allow its fundamental mix to become diluted it faltered and then poetically starting withering away. Triumphalism can sometimes wear a thorny crown!” His lordship’s voice trailed as he rose from the bench.

“You mean it achieved nothing?”

“No…on the contrary it achieved a lot. It ended to a great extent the tendency to legislate from the bench. But it could have achieved much more …”

They both begin their walk again.

“How did he do that?”

“Trite as it may sound, you don’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds! Of the three pillars, I guess this one is the loneliest one of all and in its solitude lies its inherent strength. I am reminded of Justice Earl Warren’s observation: ‘It is not the form of law that keeps justice alive…it is the spirit.’”

The young man looks up at the towering figuring walking next to him and offers: “Can I give you a ride home?” His lordship looks at the young man and then putting his hand on his young shoulder says: “Why not? I think your mother would enjoy having both of us for dinner, for a change! What do you say?”

“Sure thing, Dad!”

It is the summer of 2047.

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at sipraindubai@yahoo.com


Courtesy: Daily Times, 17/4/2008

 Posted by at 10:23 am

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