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An estimated 5-minute read

Face Value

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The ever-enlightening Wikipedia tells us that the phrase “Face value” is the value of a coin, stamp or paper money, as printed on the coin, stamp or bill itself by the minting authority. While the face value usually refers to the true value of the coin, stamp or bill in question (as with circulation coins) it can sometimes be largely symbolic, as is often the case with bullion coins.

We learn that ‘face value’ of bonds, usually represents the principal or redemption value, that in the case of stock certificates, ‘face value’ is the par value of the stock. Further, that the ‘face value’ of a life insurance policy is the death benefit and that in the case of the face value of property, casualty or health insurance policies, it is the maximum amount payable, as stated on the policy's face or declarations page.

Furthermore, ‘Face value’ can be used to refer to the apparent value of something other than a financial instrument, such as a concept or plan. Face value also refers to the price printed on a ticket to a sporting event, concert, or other event (the price the ticket was originally sold for by the organization hosting the event).

In English, ‘taking someone at face value’ is assuming another person's suggestion, offer, or proposal is sincere, rather than a bargaining ploy.

In the legal corridors, the same phrase is very commonly heard but barely understood in its entirety and all its connotations.

Illustratively, a young lawyer friend of mine assiduously studied his brief and went for an appeal admission. His case according to him was squarely covered by a Constitutional Bench judgment passed a few months back. His opening argument was met by a very stern reply from one of the Judges who stated that in view of the decisions of that Court in several other matters, the appeal was not maintainable and the learned Judge cited a few decisions. As my friend was busy noting them down, he tried to maintain his position and said that although he had not had an occasion to read the judgments as cited, he wanted the Judges to have a look at the Apex Court decision since according to him, in view of the said decision cited by him, there was no requirement of looking into the earlier decisions of that Court.

The Court unfazed, asked him to come back the next morning but only after he had read the decisions so cited.

Back in the Gothic corridors, an unsolicited advice appealed to him. So and So lawyer, he was briefed, has an amazing ‘face value’ before the Court (where he perspired to no end to get his appeal admitted). The rest of the evening, both of us looked for those decisions. We found only one out of some seven cited. And surprisingly, the said decision appeared to be impliedly overruled by the Apex Court decision which my friend was obsessed with by now.

Having run out of imagination, he contacted the ‘so and so lawyer’ and briefly addressed his predicament. The person on the other side of the phone asked him to meet him in the corridors the next morning before the Court would commence work for the day.

Having marked his briefing copy with colourful post-its, armed with extra copies for the court and a lot of intrigue, my friend meets the so and so lawyer with several juniors in toe. The Gentleman looks at the decision and enters the courtroom. As the Court commenced work, the Gentleman approached the Bench with my friend in suit.

So and so to Court :

“My Lords, My Lords, I reckon that my Lords had indicated that the appeal is not maintainable. My Lord would kindly have a look at…..”

Court to So and So:

“No No, Mr. So and So, the appeal stands admitted. We would fix a date in the matter for arguments. "

So and so to Court:

"Obliged My Lord."

Ordered accordingly.

My friend and I stand dumbstruck.

Such things happen everyday in our courts. Irrespective of the merit of one’s submissions, matters get decided on ‘face value’.

In the domain of judicial discretion and especially in view of the fact that in the Indian legal proceedings, an injunction granted or denied is more than half the battle won or lost, such ‘face value’ creates havoc. Just think of the  'bail' court.

In order to clearly understand the nature of this phenomenon called face value, one must remember, in most cases, we deal not with just the law in courts but first and foremost, deal with a person presumed to be well versed in law.

Like all humans, they do have their limitations, likes and dislikes, and as we are all aware, that some humans, on the face of it, have more credibility and thus more ‘face value’. Such credibility may come from age, lineage and a variety of reasons and some of such reasons may also be not so credible’.

However, such ‘face value’ based exercise of judicial discretion, does immense damage to the confidence and the prospects of the younger generation at the Bar.

Results, Results and Results.

 Manic obsession with favourable results is perhaps  one of the single biggest reason for rising corruption in judiciary and desperate extra legal measures adopted at the cost of fairness and dignity of the profession and its professionals.

The Client, most often is not in a position to appreciate the young lawyer’s sincere efforts since especialy in the face of an unprepared lawyer with face value appearing and disappearing with an order in his favour leaving the young lawyer to gradually disappear from the court room, don his colours and silently exit with a bitter feeling …

And that is how ‘face value’ devalues the cause for creation of premier law  schools.

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