An Encounter at the Family Court

At last, I am living my dream of interning at the Trial Court at my home place, Dharwad. Otherwise, every vacations would see me off to Bangalore for an "elite" internship. A trial court internship comes at a discount of being "unglamorous", as judged by my peers at the law school. But, I thought I would give it a try, since I had not enough time to be at Bangalore for upward to 3 weeks, and guess what, I do not regret my decision a bit.

Securing an internship under a trial court lawyer in a place like Dharwad is a cake-walk. No e-mails, no CVs, no elaborate and bombastic covering letters, and above all, no head-scratching and waiting for that coveted Reply from the firm. You just approach the advocate personally, speak for a few minutes to him/her as to what an internship constitutes etc, etc (since many of the trial court advocates are not well-versed with the idea of internship), and about your interest to learn the praxis of Law, and there you go - your internship is confirmed. 

The process is even more simpler if you know the advocate personally.

I thus started my internship mid-Jan under an advocate familiar to me, it has been just 4 days, and let me confess, I am loving it awfully. Yes, the court complexes do not glisten in the lustrous sheen of glass walls. Yes, there are no glamorous, professional-looking people in suits walking around, no women with stilettoes stuttering around - the smooth and shiny floor reflecting their eclat.

All I get to see everyday is a rusty old building, alongside an equally dusty highway. Surprisingly, there is a temple and also a mosque inside the Court campus! I get to see a lot of advocates who come in diverse shapes, sizes, constitution and quality. But, one thing ties all of them together - that's the string of simplicity.

There is not a modicum of snobbishness in their disposition towards others, and more importantly, also towards themselves. Some indeed are rude, and rustic, but they are equally naive and oblivious of the various avatars which the Law is showing itself up in, off late. All they know of, is the simple black coat (some coats are also literally found to have turned brown, or ruddy - especially markedly at the shoulders - as if sustaining the deprecation of the Sun at their naivety), and the bundle of case dockets which are yellow and crinkly due to excessive handling and prolonged hearings.

The Bar comprises predominantly of male members, clearly evident by their sheer numbers, and I find them staring at me as if I am an alien walking along the court halls and corridors. "Who is she and what on earth can she even be supposedly doing at THIS place?" - is what their eyes seem to be asking of me. But, together with these queer characteristics of the trial court, there are a lot of things which I would not find at any other place.

Among the members of the Bar, there indeed are some gems, in the minority though - as is the case with all the gems. I would like to share one specific experience which I encountered with an advocate today. He's a gem or a stone? - You decide!

The advocate I am interning under deals with a lot of domestic violence and divorce cases. Hence I get to visit the Family Court almost every day. The first day I witnessed the trial of a DV case in the Civil Court, I was left wondering why they are not held in camera. Just like a continuing corollary to that question I raised to myself that day, today I had an interesting encounter at the Family Court.

As I sat on the bench at the always-crowded Family Court, trying to concentrate on the cross-examination of the witness, I sensed a senior-looking advocate, who was limping, approaching me. We shared a glance with each other, and I ignored him, placing him as just another one of those "starers". He soon proved me wrong.

He came to me and asked - "Do you have a case going on here?". I figured out that he wanted to know why I was there, just like innumerable other advocates who had demanded from me the reason I was there, who I was, where I studied, in which year I studied, etc, etc.

I answered, "No, I am student."

"Oh, a law student? Why are you sitting in this Court?" - was his straight forward question.

The string of conversation which we shared after this was perplexing, if not intimidating.

I said, "Court Observation". - No more, no less.

"That I know maa...but why THIS Court? Can't you go to some other Court?" - was his reply!

For this, I said, "I am interning under so-and-so, and she has her case here", and answering thus, I looked at the Junior Advocate of my Boss (my colleague, de facto).

For this he said,"Yes, but you are 'not supposed to' watch these proceedings. Can't you go to some other Court Hall? Find some other Court, don't sit here!", retorted he!

I did not want to relent. I replied, "But Sir, this isn't an in camera proceeding, right?"

Pat came his reply, "Yes, please don't take me wrong, but you shouldn't watch these proceedings".

His junior echoed, "No no, Sir meant, you are still young, these matters contain a lot of fights, family quarrels, husband-wife problems, etc. They may have adverse affects on your psyche, you still have a long way to go in your life, so, avoid coming to this court, also avoid reading the files of the matters in this Court, you refer to the case files for study purposes - it's fine, but we advocates use 'such kind of language' in describing divorce cases - I'm telling you frankly, so please don't come here!"

I couldn't help but just smile at them and say 'Okay'!

The advocate also spoke about the 'matter' to my de facto colleague and even my Boss!

But, thankfully, they did not mince matters and found no problem in me watching those "disturbing" proceedings!
Now, if only I could spare some of my time in justifying and/or reasoning my presence in the family court to the esteemed advocate, I would first of all want to thank him for having been so considerate/parental, if that were to be his real intention (thankful because such incidents define the essence of small town India! - with all their non-liberalism and parochialism intact).

Secondly, it is with gratitude that I would like to tell him that, we as law students, are taught to "think like lawyers", which means "we are not allowed to mix our emotions/personal ideologies with the legal concepts or reasoning". As a law student, and a wannabe lawyer, I just am not allowed to cry for the divorcees, the rape victims, the widows, the poor, the landless laborers, or the other destitutes. All I am expected to do is to help them and that is it. No more, no less. Reason, and not emotions guide us in our work.

I bet that this fact is known by him far better than what I know of it! But still, the amount of rationality and logic with which I was guaging each and every court scene suddenly vanished as soon as that junior advocate gave that unforgettable reasoning of his! It is unforgettable for two reasons - first, it was unexpected, secondly, I found it really illogical, out-of-place, silly, and so very laughable!

So, this encounter, will indeed remain etched in those unforgettable sands of my life time! I don't know whether it's good or bad, but it is definitely queer and memorable!

P.S.: This blog has also been published at Legally India.

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