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Court Witness’ SLP Quadrilogy (Part 3): First day of school, SLP gets educated by Eminent Senior Counsel, disciplined by Junior

SLP's first day at school: no cakewalk
SLP's first day at school: no cakewalk
Earlier this week, Court Witness thought he impressed his client by predicting the bench who would hear his treasured special leave petition (SLP), which learned to walk last week after having been nurtured since birth by CW. CW and client then conspired to put together a winning team of eminent senior counsel and junior senior counsel (from the same state as the judge) to make sure the SLP had a good start to its life. Now the SLP is ready to go to school… Hopefully a good one. [read previous column]

Briefly now

To brief our Eminent Senior Counsel, my client accompanied me. A (non-practising) lawyer himself, I could vaguely sense that he didn’t trust someone straight out of law school to be able to brief, who was in fact, the Eminent Senior Counsel.

Eminent Senior Counsel is probably the most recognisable face in the Supreme Court of India. I have rarely seen him take ten steps in court without being ambushed by lawyers seeking his benediction. His name is a constant in all the major judgments of the 70s and 80s, all the way into the 90s and nought-ies.

When he speaks, the judges listen. In silence and reverence.

Eminent Senior Counsel’s office was in a basement in the posh part of South Delhi. The office itself was quite... unexpected.

The de facto cellar was ill-lit and filled with piles of law reports hidden in the half-gloom. ESC took up few cases these days, I was told, but my client knew him well enough from days gone by to interest him in this. We waited on the uncomfortable chairs until the ageing secretary led us into the inner sanctum of his office.

ESC sat somewhat in the middle of the musty room in front of a peeling, ancient table, surrounded once again by piles and piles of books, only half of which were law reports. They seemed to be in no particular order of any sort and ranged from general philosophy to religion to jurisprudence... and physics. The room itself was lit like an operating theatre - blazing white fluorescent tubelights everywhere. Eminent Senior Counsel sat amid all of this like a Zen master in a cheesy Hollywood flick.

Yet for all his seeming age and decrepitude, I found that Eminent Senior Counsel retained brain and memory so razor-sharp it made me bleed. For the next hour, as we briefed him, I becamethe delivery wallah bringing law reports, out of which he quoted passages and cited page numbers with startling accuracy.

He must have noticed me watching mouth agape and proceeded to assure me that his memory was not as good as it used to be.

I walked out of the briefing in complete awe of the man. He’d seen the case from an angle I could not have imagined. I read the brief once again and now it seemed so obvious a first-year law student could have grasped it and yet it took Eminent Senior Counsel to point out this obvious aspect to me.

The client seemed smug. Happy in the knowledge that he was guaranteed of at least a stay should Eminent Senior Counsel turn up, he let me go alone to brief our Junior Senior Counsel.


Junior Senior Counsel’s office was in an address just as posh as Eminent Senior Counsel’s and also in the basement. That’s about where the similarity ended.

Junior Senior Counsel’s office was well-lit and beautifully furnished - indicative of a man with great taste in art. His office was neatly cubicled for his platoon of juniors, each with their own desktop and internet connection. I sat on the comfortable sofas laid out for visitors in the waiting room as quietly and efficiently a glass of water was placed before me.

Soon the secretary led me into the soft-lit, wood-panelled, pleasant-smelling office. Junior Senior Counsel sat before a vast desk in the manner of a top executive of a giant conglomerates with a copy of the SLP Paperbook before him that seemed, at least to me, too ragged and shabby in these fair surroundings.

Assuming that like Eminent Senior Counsel, JSC too would be interested more in the law than a few bare facts, I had carried law reports and my notes from Eminent Senior Counsel’s briefing hoping to impress him with some shamelessly borrowed knowledge. It was useless.

Junior Senior Counsel was least interested in the law. He insisted on going through every document in the annexures and every ground in the SLP looking on impatiently as I struggled with the SLP paper book to track down the exact page which contained the exact paragraph he was looking for. With each demand I grew more flustered, the pages fluttered and he looked more and more impatient. I shrank further into the ample and comfortable seats convinced that I was making an ass of myself.

Finally he seemed satisfied and brought the briefing to an end. I don’t know whether he was satisfied with the briefing or satisfied that he was being briefed by an idiot who couldn’t help him any further.

I left the office and found that I was a sweating mess.

The next day was the day that my case was going to be heard.

Concludes in part 4: SLP graduates, turns SEP and joins the undead in terrifying conclusion of Court Witness’ SLP Quadrilogy

Photo by laffy4k

Court Witness is an advocate of the Supreme Court of India and tweets @courtwitness1.

Court Witness’ previous postcards:

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