She has had the opportunity to face the judiciary of the country, three times in her lifetime. No, she is not an accused, she has probably not committed what could be called a serious crime so far, and as far as she knows , has no enemies. Each time , it has taught her something new. Each time she has had several questions. Which remained basically unasked, most of the time, because, the judge was doing the asking. And you don't chit chat with the judge, as such.
The first time, was when she had to apply for a duplicate school leaving certificate from her school, many many years ago. . A gentleman there explained that she would need to submit an affidavit (about having lost the original) in court, after which they would issue a duplicate. At this point it must be clarified that a school leaving certificate that displays a date of birth is greatly valued and is used as proof of age. It goes without saying that it is misused. And so duplicates are given only after an affidavit is submitted to the court.
Turns out that she needed an advocate. To say in terrible ungrammatical English, what she could have told the judge in 2 minutes, or written the affidavit herself. Besides , the judge needed to sign the stuff , and the advocate offered to "expedite " the delivery of the affidavit for a special fee. She was told that a lawyer was a must. So she submitted her details. Her maiden name, her married name, school name, timeline of events etc etc. Surprisingly no one asked for the marriage certificate which she was carrying with attested copies. The change in name needed, amazingly, no proof , and the lawyer gave her a look when she asked. They entered the courtroom in the next session, after passing through dark corridors lined with something that looked like lockups for thieves, and a few constables walking around with folks in manacles. She was told to sit, and go stand up in the dock when her name was called. When the event happened, she rushed up to stand in the dock, the lawyer person kind of stood up respectfully somewhere in an area up front. The judge asked her if she was indeed who it said she was. There were no photos anywhere, but he believed her. Gave her a look, gave the lawyer a look, and then signed something. The bailiff or whoever asked her to step down. End of story. The affidavit was duly collected from the lawyer, who went into "chambers" to get it stamped/signed etc.
Times have changed.
She had occasion to visit the Civil Court in another city for some certification pertaining to her late parents papers. This was within the last couple of years. That day , there was a terror alert in that city, and there were hundreds of cops everywhere , manning the various court gates. Her purse and papers were checked. They found the whistle that she carried to facilitate road crossings in Mumbai . And wondered. So she blew it and showed them how she used it, and they just waved her in. Anyone who made so much noise would be incapable of slinking in.
Here too, they waited to submit originals to the court. Her name was called, and her lawyer bowed, wished the judge and presented her case. All happening in a very quiet soft spoken way. The very considerate judge, noting that she came from another city, agreed to accept court verified copies instead of originals, to save her an extra trip. She stood in the box once again, in a small courtroom, amidst other waiting lawyers and the clerks of the court. But this was vastly different from her earlier experience. The judge almost appeared human.
But the most interesting interaction happened, around 20 yeas ago, outside the chambers of a High Court Judge, in the very impressive Mumbai High Court premises.
About 22 years ago, they adopted a little girl,as second child, a sister to a biological son. It took a year or so to get the various paperwork stuff done, along with the visits of the social welfare folks, etc, and the date for issuing the adoption deed was posted for a weekday in the summer. The little girl had been under their foster care all along, to enable everyone to bond as a family, and settled in wonderfully, and they looked forward to getting done with all the paperwork.
This was not done in a court room , as such, possibly because it did not involve public scrutiny or participation, and was a very personal thing relating to family and children.
Their name was called and they went into the judges august chambers with their advocate. The various home study and other documents were presented. The judge spoke to them very nicely. However, there was a fellow sitting to the side of the judge, who seemed to have something to say.
He represented a government social service council routinely at such events. He didn't seem to be listening to their lawyers comments, and the judges remarks. Then he piped up and expressed a doubt that since a biological child existed, the couples commitment to this new child would be suspect, if, say, the child later on showed physical or mental disability. To her it sounded like a theoretical objection, stated simply to prove that he had read his books . It also indicated to her that he was not paying any attention to the content of the documents presented in the case.
The judge nodded his head, and before they knew what happened, they were outside the chambers, with the lawyer shaking his head. Apparently, theses kind of objections happened routinely in cases emanating from certain orphanages. Some internal politics.
She was hopping mad. Things could not be like this. For heaven's sake, this was about the mind of a child. She was in tears, and sobbing her heart out, as she requested (actually , more like, demanded) the lawyer to get her an audience with the judge . They tried to pacify her, her little daughter wondered what all the excitement was about. But she expressed her total disgust with the Judiciary of India in general and Mumbai in particular, and insisted on an opportunity to see the judge. The lawyer managed to get her a chance to see the judge.
She wiped her eyes, stood up straight and went in respectfully. Asked the judge what the objection to the case was. And when he very kindly explained, that it was about safeguarding the child (vis-a-vis an existing biological child), in case there was a later developmental problem, she told him that she was prepared to sign an affidavit, on whatever value stamp paper they specified (the higher the value, the more serious the stuff), that not only would she and her husband undertake to take life long care of the little girl, irrespective of any known mental or physical disability that may befall her, but also would include any possible new sicknesses yet to be discovered, say for he next 10-15 years, or any period the honorable court specified.
The chambers were very awe inspiring, the judge a very senior person, and she was very respectful with all the "Your Honour" stuff, while she spoke. Quietly. Which was very uncharacteristic of her. She wasn't sure you could talk like this with a judge, offering suggestions and stuff, but the judge was willing to listen, and she had to prove her commitment to the child in a way that the Court understood. Her voice would break often, her eyes would blur with tears, but she quietly managed to tell her stuff and come out , thinking the rest was up to God.
The lawyer was called in. He was told that they needed to have an interview of their biological child with the Director of the social service set up (whose representative had so unimaginatively messed up everything). Once she okayed, the couple did not need to come to the High Court again, and the lawyer could just come and take the judges signature/stamp on the adoption deed. It was really a case of "going through the motions". The lawyer came out, relived and smiling.
It is another story that the said interview with the biological child did take place, during which the little girl, his sister, climbed all over the office, under tables and stuff, and generally had a great time being indulged by her parents and brother. The Director lady remarked that he family bonding was there for everyone to see, she fired her assistant for wasting every one's time, and urged him to pay more attention to people than to rules in archaic English which could be interpreted in many ways. She also expressed her regret to the family , for having to bring a little boy for an interview with her, like this.
The family walked out, having cleared the last hurdle. On a hot searing summer afternoon, they all enjoyed an ice cream together, before taking the crowded train back to the suburbs.
That was 22 years ago.
She doesn't curse the Indian Judiciary system any more. Barring a few instances. She still respectfully remembers the name of the judge. He retired a few years ago.
She often wonders what the judge must have thought , of her suggesting affidavits and stuff; which was actually something the judiciary was supposed to do. She often wonders if people sob outside those august judges' chambers, like she did, and whether, the judge simply took his decision, to avoid seeing her again and making a scene. But her lawyer was overheard telling some folks that "madam decided to take things in hand and requested a meeting, and that's why things happened the way they did.". So she thinks , it is OK.
There is something about being fearless and not fearing authority. But it takes an understanding judge to allow someone like her, inside his chambers to make a representation.
Jurisprudence. There was a lot of ' Juris ' stuff happening. She is not just sure about the "prudent" part. More like Juris-pushy, maybe from her side :-)......