As the District Courts in Sector 43, Chandigarh, is about to complete 50 years on November 1 since its inception, 85-year-old Chaudhary Mahavir Singh, one of the oldest advocates practicing in the court for the past five decades, shares his experiences and opinions.
Since you have been in the district courts for the past five decades, how much do you think it has changed in these 50 years?
I have seen the district courts grow from a single room to 30-odd courtrooms now. Earlier the population of the city was less and the crime rate was less, therefore, the number of cases were also less. It was manageable by the minute strength of judges that time. Now, we have everything, a battery of lawyers in the district bar association, unlimited number of cases, lawyers with thorough legal knowledge, still the litigants are tired of the legal procedures and frequent adjournments. Though the facilities and legal advise rendered by the lawyers have improved tremendously over the years, the litigants’ wait for relief is prolonged.
Having been associated with the legal profession for the past five decades, what are the major differences between lawyers then and now?
I will start by saying that there is no better profession than the legal profession. Out of all the professions, it is the best. In this profession, one makes a lot of money these days. Earlier, the lawyers were not as legally sound and as hardworking as they are now. The hard work pays now. In the end of the day, it is all about money.
The lawyers who practise in district courts are not elevated as senior lawyers or as high court judges usually. Why is it so?
When we talk of elevating a district court lawyer as a senior counsel or as a high court judge, we can raise a wide debate on it. Basically the policy of the government is wrong. A lawyer who has not practised in lower courts and district courts has no experience and his knowledge is shallow. Practising in district courts is tough. A lawyer who practises in the high court has a limited exposure to legal nuances. A lawyer who practises in the district courts is a real lawyer. Moreover, for a lawyer to practice civil matters in district courts is also not as tough as criminal law. And a criminal lawyer makes more money than a civil lawyer.
Compared to 1966, when the district courts were inaugurated in Chandigarh, the number of judges has increased manifold over the years. Has it helped in reducing the pendency of cases?
When I started practising, there were two judges. One was a sessions judge, who used to come from Ambala, and the second one was the Chief Judicial Magistrate. Now, we have around 30 judicial officers in the district courts. When I started practising, there were barely 15 lawyers who were members of the District
Bar Association and now there are 1,500 lawyers who practice in the District Courts. It is not necessary that if you increase the number, it will bring relief to the litigants or help in reducing the pendency of cases. It’s important to have competent judicial officers rather than having many. Likewise, having good lawyers with sound legal knowledge is important than have numerous lawyers.
Have the recent amendments made in the Acts been beneficial in maintaining the law and order situation?
The amendments have spoiled the Indian Penal Code. The law was good at the time of Britishers and these amendments have spoiled it. Those who make the amendments, should be from the legal profession. It is the incompetent people who have amended the laws. Whenever the government intends to amend a law, it should include practising lawyers as a part of their team. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) that the Britishers had made was perfect. I am not an anti-national, but it is the truth that Britishers were much more intelligent and had drafted a perfect IPC.
What would you like to say on the manner in which the witnesses these days are manipulated by the lawyers who later turn hostile?
The witnesses turning hostile has become a common practice now. This is because the character of common man has fallen down. The standard of lawyers have fallen down as well. I will say that the degeneration of human values in the country has affected the community of lawyers as well. Everyone wants money, so if lawyers manipulate witnesses, it is degeneration of human values basically.