Virtual Justice: Starring *Hookah, Baniyan And Lawyers In Double Roles
An empty courtroom. (Source: BloombergQuint)

Virtual Justice: Starring *Hookah, Baniyan And Lawyers In Double Roles

Overburdened with cases, crippled by poor infrastructure and, nowadays, fending off allegations of apathy and injustice. India’s judicial system, in recent years, has offered little to smile about.

Until the pandemic arrived. And hearings went online. Baring, quite literally, some lawyers and leaving a few judges in the dark.

Dressing Down

The Supreme Court mandates lawyers to appear before it in formal attire—usually a shirt, trousers, coat, gown and neckband. While the apex court and some high courts relaxed rules for virtual hearings, asking lawyers to appear in a plain white shirt/salwar kameez/saree, with a white neckband, the Rajasthan High Court insisted on full formal attire.

One lawyer missed the memo. He turned up for the hearing in a baniyan (inner vest), displeasing the judge and earning an adjournment.

“Even through video conference a decorum of the court is required to be maintained,” the judge admonished.

Another lawyer learnt the hard way that justice may be blind but can tell a tie from a neckband.

Mind Your Language Avatars

What do you get when road rage interrupts a hearing? A lawyer short of Rs 200.

A lawyer appearing before the Thoothukudi District Court uttered curse words while on a video call with the judge and other parties to the case.

The lawyer was reportedly standing by the side of the road arguing the case when a rash driver earned his ire.

Witness accounts were sought, a show-cause notice was issued and an offended court found that “even an uneducated village man will not utter the above said filthy language in a public place...”.

It cost the advocate Rs 200 under Section 228—intentional insult or interruption to public servant sitting in judicial proceeding.

His colleague in Delhi though got lucky.

Multi-Tasking

Some senior lawyers are so popular that in ordinary times even three of them would not be enough to meet client demand. Rushing from court to court, being briefed in the car and making lightning appearances to save their client’s skin.

Now all they need is multiple screens. And a swivel chair.

During the Rajasthan political crisis, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi was arguing before the the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.

Rohatgi first finished his arguments in the Delhi High Court in another case and then switched to the Supreme Court hearing while other parties continued their arguments in the high court matter. At one point, the high court unmuted Rohatgi’s mic for a clarification, only to find Rohatgi arguing in the Supreme Court.

The AGR hearing at the Supreme Court of India saw Senior Advocate and Queen’s Counsel Harish Salve addressing the bench from the U.K.

In The Dark

Sometimes even courts are powerless. Leaving lawyers to banter among themselves.

One such incident took place during the hearing on University Grants Commission guidelines to proceed with final year university examinations, that many students are opposing.

Hookah Bar

A short video clip went viral this month on social media platforms showing a senior advocate appearing to smoke a hookah in the middle of the court hearing.

The video reportedly showed Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhawan holding a set of papers in front of his face. Soon after, rings of smoke appeared behind the documents.

The proceedings seemed to be taking place before the Rajasthan High Court.

Back at the Supreme Court, a lawyer who appeared to be chewing gutka (flavoured tobacco and betel nut), invited the ire of the bench.

Sometimes a quick apology is all it takes to escape unscathed.

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