Guest column: Locked down at home, we miss you, My Lord!
Vacations seem to have outlived their contract as all courts remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All proceedings have been moved online just when we were raring to bounce back to the environs of the legal world.
Understanding the prudence of staying at home, I am inevitably missing the stimulating atmosphere of the courts, always filled with a battery of lawyers, respondents, petitioners, and above all, My Lord at the helm of affairs. There is a moment of reckoning when the honourable judge arrives and the whole court rises in deep reverence. Everyone bows to the supreme powers that rest in My Lord, for the learned judge works tirelessly to uphold the ideals of the constitution.
I remember as a young lawyer I found it unnerving to appear before the bench. My voice would quiver, my hands would sweat, and I would be shaking even when I had argued my point well. But gradually one learns and grows, for that is the power of a well conducted court.
Our interaction with the learned judges on the floor of the court is usually very dynamic. They are like our friends, teachers and guides , who at times haul us up, and at others are magnanimous. Profound lessons roll out from the realms of the venerable court, which leave our minds enlightened. The sheer brilliance with which important matters are put before the court, and the learned judge exercising his legal acumen to decipher the truth of the matter, is overwhelming.
Often, we have to hold our breath, so that we do not miss a word of the arguments of the illustrious lawyers, who are masters in court craft.
When the formal system of justice took shape several centuries ago it was decided that judges be made to wear a special uniform to give visual prominence to their stature. Since then they have worn the flowing black gowns and stiff white linen bands around the winged collar.
Had we been in the pre-independence era , their dress code would have also included silk stockings and wigs (called peruke). The wig was frizzed at the top, with tight horizontal curls and a short tail at the back. However the wigs and stockings were dropped after independence. Pakistan continued with the headgear till 1980. Sri Lankan judges still wear a long wig and scarlet cloak for special occasions.
Today, as things stand, the wait seems long till we can pay our obeisance at the altar of justice… in person. We have to make do with our tardy internet connections, and argue our cases from the confines of our homes. Our royal gowns and jackets have also been discontinued for some time, keeping in view the spread of the novel coronavirus. We long to go back to the coffee shops , where we had animated discussions on points of law.
As we deliver our legal responsibilities through the online portals, we miss the magnificent courtroom and the benign presence of My Lord.
The writer is a Chandigarh-based lawyer