One has to regard with dismay the news that honourable judges and learned lawyers are going to have to apply their minds to the curious case of Cyrus Mistry, who was sacked abruptly as Tata Sons chairman. That’s because an overburdened judiciary could well do without more cases in its ‘In’ tray. Although Mistry’s office has denied reports that he will mount a legal challenge to the dismissal, the board of directors has filed caveats at the National Company Law Tribunal, the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court to prevent him from obtaining ex-parte relief. So one way or the other, lawyers will have a field day.
Successful lawyers of the elite kind — those who are hired by top honchos, politicians and criminals — are some of the richest people around, and also some of the most powerful, judging from the number of those who strut around in the corridors of Parliament. The whisper goes that about 3 lakh has to be paid to middlemen to even get top Delhi lawyers to consider taking up a case. The venerable lawyer whose very name sends shivers in the opposite camp is usually not even aware of the details, and just stands there waiting to be prompted by his team of legal eagles.
It’s said that this is thanks to Indians being a litigation-happy people but this is a defamatory statement that should send us all to court, except that your average citizen on the street really can’t spare the time and money to defend a mere reputation in court. It’s actually government departments that are weighing down the courts with cases against other departments, passing the buck to the judiciary whenever they feel disinclined to make a decision that can be questioned later.
Those who work in the private sector always face the possibility of an arbitrary dismissal, and sometimes go to court against their former company. However, they are usually given the option to resign so that they can go onto the next job without the taint of being dismissed. This is just a courtesy extended by bosses, as they know that the person being booted out needs to earn a living. Mistry may not be in such dire straits after he quits the job, as he can fall back on family firms Pallonji Mistry and Cyrus Investment Pvt Ltd. Salaried staff
often has no other source of income.
From Tata Sons directors to Teesta Setalvad, everyone is putting their eggs in the court basket waiting for justice to be hatched
Among the strange cases the judges have to take up is one by social activist Teesta Setalvad and two co-applicants, who approached the Supreme Court, no less, to consider checking what she called the ‘devastating consequences’ of its 1995 judgement that Hindutva or Hinduism is a ‘way of life’, not ‘narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry.’ Her plea was taken up by a seven-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur (again, no less) and declined. The earlier ruling was given by late Justice JS Verma, deliverer of many landmark judgements, the most controversial of which was the Hindutva one. Te apex court’s refusal to take up the please was no doubt a blow to lawyers who would have loved to argue a case involving such high principles.
We might regard these as cases of frivolous litigation but to the champions of communal harmony it might make eminent sense. Oh well, to each his or her own.