When a don wanted to be gentleman (A Legal Reporter’s Diary)

August 8th, 2010 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Sanjay Dutt By Parmod Kumar
New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Underworld-don-turned-politician Arun Gawli had every intention of changing his ways, but police kept pushing him “back to his past” - or so said his counsel during a hearing in the Supreme Court.

While hearing the petition by the Maharashtra government challenging the Bombay High Court verdict that granted bail to Gawli, counsel Makarand D. Adkar said his client wanted to reform but was not being allowed to do so.

“After I was elected to the state legislature in 2004, I wanted to break away from the past and start on a fresh note. But police never let me change. They kept pushing me back to my past,” said Adkar, speaking for his client Gawli.

“So you wanted to be a ‘gentleman’ but police did not let you be one!” remarked Justice B.S. Chauhan. The reply, on behalf of Gawli, evoked more laughter: “Sir, it is still worse in politics — I found far more serious bosses.”

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Notings not online

The Supreme Court may have taken to the digital world, with judgments too being posted on its website, but when it comes to case files, the judges seem to prefer traditional ways - especially as they are in the habit of making notings.

Ahead of the hearings on the 1993 Mumbai riots, Justice P. Sathasivam asked the registry to produce the case files. But there are 48 appeals, including one by actor Sanjay Dutt. The Maharashtra government has also filed 57 appeals for enhanced punishment.

So the lordship was asked if he would like the case files in 10 volumes or 12, as they ran into some 5,000 pages. Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam queried if the learned judge would like to use computers since the bulk of these had also been digitised.

“Mr. Solicitor General, we will then require the assistance of the court masters to use the laptops,” replied Justice P. Sathasivam. “We have the habit of marking and making noting on the files,” he said, brushing aside the idea.

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Everything liberalised

Not everything done by the government is disapproved by the court, but a hearing related to a petition by former foreign minister K. Natwar Singh on the Iraqi food-for-oil scam certainly prompted the judge to comment on the wisdom of parliament.

The Supreme Court bench of justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar asked what the nature of the proceedings was under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, as the case was booked under its provisions.

The court was told that under an erstwhile legislative measure, those booked under such cases could invite criminal liability, but under the new law it has been diluted and made a civil offence.

“Parliament, in its wisdom, thought of watering it down,” observed Justivce Reddy. “We now have everything liberalised.”

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Law is blind?

A Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly was hearing a petition filed by a voluntary organisation on the way chewing tobacco is packed into sachets and its health consequences.

Counsel appearing for the tobacco manufacturers sought to argue there was nothing wrong as chocolates, biscuits and even milk were packed into sachets. This left Justice Singhvi wondering if tobacco can be compared with the other products.

It was when the counsel said it was a matter of “subjective understanding” that Justice Singhvi retorted: “Subjectivity cannot be blind.”

(Parmod Kumar can be contacted at mazak1453@gmail.com)

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