We at The Libertatem Magazine continually strive to interact with practicing advocates who have become an inspiration to bring to you their experience and piece of advice. This time we take a page from the life of Mr. Asim Pandya, Advocate, Gujarat High Court who talks to us eloquently upon the issue of judicial appointments in the higher judiciary, challenges faced by young lawyers at the bar and much more.
Mr. Pandya is an Advocate at the Gujarat High Court. He joined the legal profession in the year 1989 and began practicing law in the Gujarat High Court. He obtained his LL M degree from Gujarat University, Ahmedabad in the year 1992. After practicing litigation of civil and constitutional nature till 1993, he specialized in excise law. In the year 1998, he was appointed as the Additional Central Government Standing Counsel for the High Court of Gujarat to represent the Union of India and other central government departments. He worked as a part-time honorary lecturer for two years in Sir L A Shah Law College. He also headed ‘The Institute of Excise Law’, which provides certificate courses in excise law, run by the Gujarat Law Society. He is an active visiting faculty in the Gujarat National Law University and has been a constant contributor of articles on different subjects of law in various law journals. In the year 2003, he wrote an acclaimed work on the Contempt of Courts Act, which won accolades from the legal fraternity. Mr. Pandya has also authored Writs and Other Constitutional Remedies (Published by LexisNexis, 2009), Excise Law and Procedure as well as Rights of Arrested Persons, Investigation and Bail.
Here are the excerpts from the Interview:
Q. Tell us about your pre law school days. What motivated you to take up law?
Ans. Honestly, there was no motivation! It was by default that I became a lawyer. In school and even in my college days, I wasn’t a brilliant student. While doing LLB I just managed to pass the course without attending any lecture. But in those days, after school, there was little choice. There were some lawyers in my extended family, so I thought of joining this profession. Except that there was no motivation.
Q. Tell us about the transformation that legal education has witnessed from your times to today, the time of the 5 year law course.
Ans. I did the 3 yr law course and I can say that I hardly attended any classes. But those days were different. Today the world is very competitive people expect a good deal of things from lawyers. In those days, we were taught very few acts, the basic ones, CPC CrPC, Succession Acts, Constitution, Evidence etc. In the 5 year course, more and more laws have been added which will be very useful to the students in their actual practice and will help them serve their clients better.
Thus, I think the 5 years course is a better option than 3 yr course. In the 3 years course, one learns very little. In fact, our learning started after we joined the profession.
Q. As a young lawyer, who joined the bar fresh from law school, what challenges did you face? What challenges do young lawyers face today? Is the environment favorable to young lawyers today or was it better back then?
Ans. The truth is, if you have no legal background it is always difficult to sustain in this profession. When I joined the profession there was no one in my family who was a lawyer so it was a very difficult job; it was a question of survival. So when I joined, for an entire year, I did not get an opportunity to appear in even one case. In the year 1990, my senior stared paying me Rs. 500 as a stipend. So those were the challenges. For an entire year one may have to sit and wait for the clients to come if you have no legal background. I utilized that one year in writing a book on excise law. And that is how I started out. It was better to write something, and it became easier for me to survive in the profession. I also did my LLM thinking that if I were to survive in this profession, I could at least get a part time lectureship in a college. I encountered these types of challenges in those days. Even Today, if you are a fresh graduate from the 5 year law course, your training may have been better, you may have attended moot courts, your may have studied sincerely, but in actual practice, it is always difficult to get clients. Clients don’t repose trust immediately, merely because you are well trained, doesn’t necessarily bring clients. The position is still the same for fresh graduates if you don’t have a legal background.
Q. Have you faced situations of moral slippery grounds, cases that caused some ethical turmoil?
Ans. Well, all throughout my practice I have always insisted on speaking the truth. I have never given any advice to my client which is wrong, if I am sure then only I take up the brief. My reputation in the court is very good and usually the court believes that I would speak the truth and would not misguide the court on facts or law. So as such I have not come across any ethical issues. As lawyers we are supposed to accept every brief. Sometimes, people may ask, ‘if you know that someone has done something wrong, then why do you accept the brief’. My answer would be, we are not supposed to change the facts. On the basis of the facts that are available to us, we are just pleading the law before the courts. So as such there are no ethical issues which I have been confronted with, at all.
Q. Indian express reported in 2011 reported you stating that the system of selection of judges to the higher judiciary was very political in nature. What is your take on the NJAC Act, 2014which has been passed by the parliament for the selection of judges to the higher judiciary?
Ans. The collegiums system is not in itself objectionable but the non-transparency which pervaded in that process was. My petition was not to seek an appointment, I wanted that the system should be more transparent. Once you are invited to become a judge of the high court our names are sent to the 3 consultees as contemplated under the Constitution of India, namely the governor, the President and the Chief Justice of India. When these files go to these consultees, these persons are supposed to just ascertain whether this person deserves to be a judge of the HC or not. At that point for some political reasons some people put forward objections of political nature if they do not want a particular candidate to enter the higher judiciary. When such objections are placed before the consultees then there is no mechanism to call for an explanation from the concerned candidate. In Presidential Reference,(the third judges case), there was one paragraph where it has been stated that if some objections have been raised against a particular candidate, the CJI may seek explanation from the candidate, so that would be in consonance with the principles of natural justice. Secondly, insistence was that if the appointment is not done, in that case, at least the courtesy demands that the candidate whose name has been forwarded must be intimated that his name has not been favorably considered. My third issue was with respect to the non-supply of the reasons for the decision of non-appointment, in the era of right to info act, I must being a candidate, must know what were the reasons that have weighed the consultees who have made up their mind to not to appoint me. So those were the things. I never had an intention that I should be appointed, and by the SC’s judgment, the scope of judicial review has also been narrowed down in this respect which was also improper. So all those things were objectionable. Though I filed the petition without success, what I had wanted has to some extent finally come true in the form of the NJAC Act, 2014.
Q. Sir any advice you would want to give law students and fresh law school graduates across India.
Ans. Across India, or anywhere, I will always suggest to have an ethical practice. Have faith and speak truth only because in these days what is lacking is the lack of character, it is difficult to find someone with a good character and who is honest. So if you are just honest, that would definitely pay you in the long run. So I would definitely request all of you to always remain honest and stick to honesty.
The complete interview video is available here: