My father had unflinching faith in the court of law. For any perceived injustice meted out to him, his first reaction, I remember, would be, ‘I will take them to court’, and he did. And my mother would dread the moment. She was just the opposite. Since most legal battles involved monetary ramifications, she would rather endeavour a compromise and settle for less which she thought was better than waiting endlessly and in the bargain nurture enmities - a typical ‘A bird in hand is worth two in the bush’ syndrome. Years in the army kept me insulated from legal tangles except an engrossing account of multifarious legal cases that my old man had in progress.
My father’s demise brought us back, for good, to the Civvy Street. Since we needed our leased out premises for personal use, the adamant tenants were shown the door but only after recourse to law. Well, that was my first tryst with the court of law and a speedy resolution to unpleasant proceedings. I silently saluted my dad for his conviction towards law. A reminder of my father’s desire that I should have taken up law as a profession rather than that of arms. Well, these were to be temporary thoughts. Our stubborn tenants did vacate but without clearing long pending arrears.
This, I thought was a minuscule issue. Alas! How wrong we were.
It was a proverbial ‘tareek pe tareek’; the respondents failed to turn up despite repeated summons and a newspaper notice. The judgement after an agonising delay (termed as a fair chance to the other party) was pronounced ex parte. Suddenly, the alert respondents surfaced having duly received the judgement and represented against the ex parte decision and filed a petition that the law had been grossly unfair, having not heard his part of the story and thus the case was back to where it started. Another bout of ‘tareeks’ started and yet again the case was pronounced in our favour. Well, having been through the ordeal, quite well-versed with legal procedures, I realised that I had partially fulfilled my father’s desire who wanted to see me as a lawyer. Now was the hour of jubilation. I narrated the progress to another childhood buddy, a legal luminary. “Avnish, unlikely that you will get your rent,” he remarked. “But he will go to jail if he doesn’t honour the law?” I replied with conviction. “Look, if at all you get to that stage, you will have to bear the expense of his stay in jail and support his family in distress!” We had a hearty laugh. I discussed this outrageous development with my lawyer, who nodded in the affirmative.
The situation developed as anticipated. Based on the execution appeal filed by us in support of the judgement, the summons came back unreceived by the respondent. Again the gentleman seemed to have disappeared. I was told to ascertain the correct address of ‘Mr India’, my ex-tenant. Bringing forth my Sherlock Holmes skills, the same was confirmed. It, incidentally, remains unchanged for years. Fresh summons were issued but with a direction by my able lawyer. “Pandit ji, you will have to go along with the prophess server to ensure that the respondent receives them.” I was perplexed. “Why paaji?” He was forthright. “We don’t want the server to return with the summons unreceived albeit with a gift from the flourishing businessman that your ex-tenant is.”
My mother is having the last laugh and my wife has joined the chorus, “Forget it. Your case which is a decade old is fast gaining the status of OROP (one rank one pension) imbroglio. Consider the arrears of OROP as the rent arrears.” I looked at my stoic father’s garlanded portrait in the lounge and silently wished him RIP.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor)