He started his professional life as a medical representative and studied law only because his father wanted an assistant. On Friday, Sudhanshu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya retired as a judge of the country’s top court, having dealt with several high-profile cases.
“This could be seen as the irony of my life. I always ended up doing what I never planned and a lot of the times, I did not even want to do those things,” said Justice Mukhopadhaya in his farewell speech on the Supreme Court lawns.
A judge for more than two decades and in the Supreme Court since 2011, Justice Mukhopadhaya, in his inimitable style, narrated the sequences that led him to study law, to become a lawyer and finally a judge.
“I started my career as a medical representative. My father was an IAS officer. Since my father also had a LL.B degree, he started his legal practice after retirement. And then he wanted an assistant to help him in his chamber. He asked me repeatedly to study law and I finally gave in,” said Justice Mukhopadhaya. He completed his LL.B from Patna University in 1979, after working as a medical representative for four years.
Justice Mukhopadhaya said he was appointed as a judge in the Patna High Court in 1994. “I was one among more than 80 lawyers who were appointed as judges in that year but I had one thing very clear in my head that I did not want to be transferred. But what happened finally? I was transferred to Jharkhand, then to Madras and also to Gujarat high courts before I finally came to the Supreme Court.”
Citing this as another instance where his plans fells flat, the judge said things did not happen in his life the way he wanted. But Justice Mukhopadhaya made the best of what he had. “When I started practising as a lawyer, I used my skills as a medical representative. I would hard sell my arguments as my products and would then point out the deficiencies in the products of my opponent — in this case weak points in their cases,” he said.
Justice Mukhopadhaya revealed to the audience, which included Chief Justice of India H L Dattu, the concerns raised by his friends when he joined as a judge. “My salary was around Rs 8,000 at that time. My friends, most of whom were well-paid lawyers, asked me how I will survive with this salary. But I did. I also know one thing. You will have DBC — daal, bhaat, chokha (rice, pulses and mashed potatoes) as a judge and if you want non-vegetarian food, please go to the lawyers’ parties,” he said, leaving his audience in splits.