A Straight Bat

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HIS LEGAL skills were responsible for dethroning prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. Decades later, 84-yearold former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan still gets a twinkle in his eye when he mentions the case that catapulted him into the national limelight.

Shanti Bhushan
Shanti Bhushan
Age: 84
Profession: Supreme Court lawyer, former Union law minister
Secret vices: He is addicted to the newer lot of issue-based Hindi soaps. He is pleased that these shows are putting Ekta Kapoor out of business Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Bhushan wears a content look as he takes a trip down memory lane. Clad in a crisp kurta-pyjama and seated below a black-and-white portrait of his wife who passed away in 1988, Bhushan says it is the small things in life that make him happy and that he feels blessed with a caring family of four children and seven grandchildren, all of whom would “do anything for him”.

Despite a history of recurring heart ailments, including a heart attack in 1978, a triple bypass surgery four years later and two angioplasties in 1988, the octogenarian still slips into his legal robes every morning and heads to the Supreme Court for four to five hours, where he is a senior advocate: “I take life as it comes and don’t bother about what’s going to happen the next day. My family will tell me not to eat sweets, but I like them.”

Bhushan says he still spends 80 percent of working days in a year on some case or the other, either at the High Court or the Supreme Court. Before he gets to court, though, he adheres to a fourhour schedule that begins with a morning walk, followed by a ‘fruity’ breakfast and a marathon session of “meaningful” TV serials, including Balika Vadhu, Sabki Laadli Bebo, Lado and Chhoti Bahu.

The pacemaker Bhushan got installed in 1988 doesn’t keep him from opening the innings at an annual “Bar vs Bench” twenty-over cricket match. “It’s difficult to get me out, though I may not make many runs,” says Shanti Bhushan who, in 2008, scored 19 runs before getting out in the 18th over. In a cricket match played between the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha that Bhushan remembers fondly, NKP Salve, who was acting as commentator, said, “I have never seen a law minister batting with such a straight bat.”

Bhushan’s son, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, differs from his father on many issues, but both agree that the Parliament attack case was perhaps the most important and exacting one Bhushan has fought since he turned 75. He defended Jaish-e-Mohammad militant Shaukat Hussain Guru against illegal detention “after being convinced that he was innocent”.

Ask Prashant what keeps his father engaged with life and country even at this age, and he says, “It’s a function of his basic value system. He still remains concerned and angry about some of the unconscionable things going on in the country.” Pose the question directly to Bhushan and he says, “Perhaps it’s because I have no regrets in life. My conscience never pinches me.”