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PIO judge shows compassion

Inspired by his Gandhian uncle, Sanjay Tailor serves the public in civil disputes.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 10:52 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Sanjay Tailor, one of only five judges from the Indian American community in the US, says he was inspired to get into public service by his uncle, a politician and social activist in India.

The uncle, the late Jhinabhai Darjee, was a Gandhian who rendered signal service in Dangs district of Gujarat by organising tribal people and providing them with education and health care.

"He accomplished quite a bit for the poor (in Gujarat)," Tailor, who is also Illinois' first Indian American judge, told IANS. "I was inspired by Jhinakaka to get into community service and to make a difference in people's lives."

He said Tolstoy had inspired Darjee. "So it was not enough for him to simply help the poor, he had to engage in physical labour to identify with the toiling masses," said Tailor.

Tailor, 39, adjudicates over civil cases, including contracts and tort action. He sees his role as akin to that of an umpire.

"In these cases, one side may win and the other lose. But as long as both parties walk away from my court, telling themselves 'I have had a fair shot with this judge,' I think I have performed my role well.

"It is a great job. I get to resolve disputes that have gone on for years," he said.

Although he was sworn in as a judge at a relatively young age, Tailor said: "Life experience for a judge is a definite advantage. When we are older, we have witnessed failure and have failed ourselves. That brings the compassion and empathy that is a tremendous asset on the bench."

Tailor recalled that his late uncle was gratified when he was made a judge.

"He visited me here and liked the city. Jhinakaka spent an hour each day manually spinning cloth. One of my most treasured possessions is a kurta pyjama made of cloth spun by him," he said.

Tailor's dilemma often is how best to combine the head and the heart on the bench. As the arbiter of justice, the framework of which is set by the statute books, Tailor does not have unfettered discretion.

"A judge is required to put all emotions aside. "Nevertheless, there is scope for the exercise of compassion.

"First and foremost I have to follow the letter of the law, then try to find out the spirit and intent," Tailor said.

He has had cases before him where one side is not able to present an adequate defence despite the advantage of a strong case.

"In such cases, I will take it upon myself to explore that defence and make a determination based on it," he said.

Tailor was sworn in as associate judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County after stints in a private firm, a bank and as assistant state attorney. He hopes to move up the judicial hierarchy and preside over cases involving constitutional law.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 10:52 IST