Of Queen’s Counsels &”Seniors”

I feel there should be no Senior Advocates only advocates.

Endowment not habiliment is the test of a lawyer. He should be recognised by his performance not his robes and his identity should lie in his work not attire. The gown does not make a lawyer. An incompetent lawyer will only disgrace it while the competent should not need it.

As long as the system remains it is liable to be exploited. A lawyer who is not designated can be run down as being incapable and be unjustifiably compared unfavourably with another who is designated aside from being denied priority in appearance in court despite superior capacity while the incapable can perpetually hide their incapacity in their robes and get undeserved preference when in fact they should be denied an audience altogether.

There is a hike in fees immediately upon designation despite want of any improvement in the quality of work. A non-designated lawyer has to explain (often without success) even a warranted increase in his charges. This not only shoots the cost of litigation up without any corresponding improvement in the quality of practise but adversely affects the quality itself as more effort is placed on the race for designation through networking rather than working.

Preference is often shown to senior advocates in courts and in some it becomes the very condition for practise. Aside from being anti-merit this is also anti-democratic as it not only stifles potential it entrenches established interests.

It is a little known fact that Francis Bacon was the first person to be so appointed and that too for reasons having nothing to do with his undisputed versatility. Till his appointment the Attorney General, Solicitor General and King’s Sergeants were Kings Counsel in Ordinary. Queen Elizabeth appointed Francis Bacon Queen’s Counsel Extraordinary. The reason for this extraordinary honour was only political and intended to prevent him from acting against the Crown. The appointment as Kings Counsel therefore had nothing to do with the admitted capabilities of Bacon – a trend which continues till today.

Distinction never needs any dressing up. It is self-evident.

Merit is always humble. It makes a place for itself without having to be ushered in.

Ability requires no badge of honour. It attracts attention without a formal proclamation.

And true recognition lies not in formal acknowledgment but in voluntary appreciation.

So where do we fit designation of Senior Advocates?

All WELL or ORWELL

On reading Mamta Banerjee’s comment on Malda I am convinced that the Orwellian dystopia is no imaginary place!

Malda, says Mamta, was not a communal incident but a clash between local people and BSF. This Orwellian Doublethink – a distortion of reality to treat the phoney version as true while knowing all the time that the counterfactual version is actually bogus feeling no cognitive dissonance – discomfort in holding contradictory beliefs – despite the simultaneous holding of contradictory ideas.

Thus inconvenient facts are incinerated altogether and as governance takes place in a dislocated sense of reality where self-serving perception guides actions of those in authority they do not feel the need of answerability because they find nothing blameworthy in their actions.

And such denialism becomes a tool to manipulate public opinion to achieve desired political ends. With the wrong effaced there is no occasion to enforce correction and an illegitimate abdication of authority is yet paraded as governance.

Governance, however, refers not to institutions of authority only but traditions by which authority is exercised and by adopting what the anthropologist Didier Fasin called “the ideological position whereby one systematically reacts by refusing reality and truth” the normative basis for wielding of power is lost.

The “ideals” then move from being spurs to action to being just an empty slogans, rhetoric takes the place of debate and the dialectics of interaction shift away from truth and reason to make a gridlock of chaos government.

Satyameva Jayate – truth alone triumphs – was adopted by us from the Mundaka Upanishad to be our National Motto. Let it not become the Ministry of Truth in the Orwellian novel Nineteen Eighty Four which concerned itself with lies – the exact opposite of what it purported to be – vapourizing both principles and personhood. The social compact which brought us together will then be lost and there will be degeneration into “war of all against all” – far removed from the Utopia we promised ourselves at the stroke of midnight!