Shady, interrupted.

December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today was shady. Pretty shady.

It started off in a Courtroom, where a Bail Application was being heard. As the Applicants, we concluded very forceful arguments, compounded by faulty investigation. Instead of pouncing on the gaping holes in our arguments, including the citing of a High Court judgement that has been overruled by the Supreme Court (don’t judge me), the Prosecutor stood up and said “I will argue on the next date”.

Judge had no objection. Matter adjourned for the day.

Or so I thought. As I left the Courtroom, I saw the familiar glint in the eye of the Prosecutor. My Boss tapped me on the shoulder and I moved aside with him.

“The PP is a non vegetarian”.

That develops from a Marathi phrase to refer to the non-pristine, if I had it my way I’d describe him as being a strict vegetarian (only green leafy stuff, get it?), anyway, I was now assigned with the arduous task of explaining things to the Client’s family member.

My approach to corruption in the Judiciary and Executive has changed much since my advent into Criminal Litigation 5 years ago. I initially thought that I was imagining it, I then forcefully agitated against it, and finally I learned, like Dr. Strangelove, to stop worrying and love the bomb. Alright, I wouldn’t go that far. I’ve stopped taking attempts by Clients to influence outcomes personally. Doesn’t matter how big the lawyer is, some Clients just want I’ve realized that, most times, since corruption has become more or less institutionalized in the legal system, Clients want to safeguard against the other side influencing the system – so it’s an anticipatory move. Whether or not a Client should be shady is not my decision to make. It’s when I’m expected to be shady that problems arise.

Am I supposed to tell the Client that they have been invited to “speak” to someone? Well, while a “yes” might suddenly mean that I’m abetting the downfall of the judiciary, there’s another angle to it. As a person with a loved one in Jail, Clients have a huge burden to do whatever they can. I prefer explaining the situation with several “I wouldn’t do this if I were you, but I guess you have a right to know”s. I know this is a debatable approach. I have this conversation in my head every time this happens, which is too often for my own good.

And frankly, for those of you who are glaring at your computer screens right now, what would you rather deal with? Telling a Client about a sleazy invite or dealing with the aftermath of “how could you NOT tell me?” (because it always gets back. Always.)

It’s not all rosy after that, because no one will nod their head understandingly. If they did, they’d be way ahead of you. Otherwise, it goes something like this:

Q. What do I say to him?

A. I don’t know!

Q. But how much is appropriate?

A.  I don’t know!

This is what happened today, so I decided to call one of my Colleagues who would, well, know.

“That guy is a total bhikari. He takes anywhere between five zero to five triple zero, depending on the Client. Tell him to “take care” of you, and assure him that you’ll “take care” of him after the matter is over.”

“I see. I’m obviously getting the Client to do this, there’s no way I’m getting involved.”

“You shouldn’t also. He knows that you’re my colleague, and he was pestering me for a Samsung Corby in that Arms Act trial. My Client just gave him a grand.”

“Sure thing.”

I convey this to my Client, and then I make my way out of the Court, hoping there’s no Anti-Corruption bust around the corner, hoping my phone’s not tapped, hoping this ends well.

Then of course I go to evening Court, for the most frivolous 138 matter that I have ever seen. In a settlement talk, the opposing lawyer tells me:

1. Even though we’ve repaid, he isn’t going to withdraw the case.

2. In fact, he might just file more criminal cases against us, just because.

3. If we pay him in cash, and issue a stop payment on the pending cheque, he’s going to sue us anyway.

This guy is supposed to be the slimiest guy at the Dadar Bar, by the way. He reeks of scum, and makes me puke every time I talk to him. He’s so sleazy that when my Boss’s friends at the Dadar Bar found out that I was pitted against him, one of them actually sat next to me throughout my arguments. Wild.

Over tea, my Client wanted to ask me a question, but wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be offended.

How can you not but say “alright” to that?

“Look, this guy is totally creepy and dirty, right? So wouldn’t it be better if I spoke to someone along the same lines?”

As soon as he said that, he began to apologize profusely. He thought I was insulted. I calmed him down, told him that I understood exactly what he was trying to say.

I didn’t carry off sleaze really well.

I was a little worried though, because I thought I was expected to recommend a sleazeball. Which would be pretty awkward, right? “Hey! Xyz called me, he gave me your reference, thanks for calling me the biggest crook there was in the legal profession!” Luckily our man, who was otherwise quite the gentleman, managed to track down the sleaziest of them all, who had once memorably handed an Investigating Officer a blank cheque in a matter where my Boss was Prosecutor.

I wished my Client luck.

Time to have a bath.

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