Book Review: Law, Humour and Urdu Poetry by Ejaz Maqbool
Many of us think of law, courtrooms and court proceedings as being fraught with mundane and serious activities. Advocate Ejaz Maqbool busts this myth in his book, Law, Humour and Urdu Poetry.
As a law student, I was taught that one of the qualities a good lawyer should have is wit. And this book genuinely captures the witty responses of the Bar and the Bench alike.
The book is a collection of various courtroom anecdotes compiled by the author. Maqbool, in his book, has created four segments revolving around anecdotes from legal luminaries, weird and funny cases, law and Urdu poetry and lastly some Urdu couplets cited in judgments.
With courts functioning virtually during these difficult times, the book takes the reader back to the physical court room. The author has carefully recounted various funny instances dating back to the pre-independence era as well as more recent ones.
The book depicts the age-old camaraderie between the Bar and the Bench and the constant banter between the two.
One such anecdote is with respect to a matter which was being heard by the Madras High Court by a Bench headed by Sir Lionel Leach. During the course of serious arguments made by the counsel, a donkey brayed. The judge remarked, “One at a time”.
When Sir Leech was delivering the judgment, the donkey brayed again. This was the chance for the counsel to give it back to the judge. He requested the judge to repeat the words as his voice was echoing and he was not audible.
Apart from a collection of courtroom anecdotes, the author has dedicated a specific section to weird cases that have been filed before the courts, and how courts dealt with them.
One such incident concerns a dispute wherein a man named Lal Bihari found out that when he was 22 years old, his uncle had bribed some officers of the government to declare him dead, so that he could grab his property.
He was finally declared alive on June 30, 1994, and now runs an organization called Mritak Sangh (Association of Dead People), which has about 20,000 members, set up to help people who have been wrongly declared dead.
Maqbool has also mentioned various Urdu verses that have been cited in judgments or have otherwise been quoted in Court.
One of these concerns a case in which then Delhi High Court judge Justice TS Thakur was reluctant to give an early date for hearing. He had directed the matter to be listed six months later. When he stood up and was about to leave, the arguing counsel for the accused, Najmi Waziri, who is now a sitting judge of the Delhi High Court, read out one line from the eminent Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib:
“Kaun jeeta hai tere zulf ke sar hone tak?” (I may not survive to hold the tresses of the beloved)
Justice Thakur, who had a great fondness for Urdu poetry, returned to his seat and asked Waziri to read the first line of the quoted couplet.
Waziri said, “Aah ko chahiye ek umr asar hote tak" (It takes a long time for the wishes of a lover to be acknowledged by the beloved)
After hearing this couplet, Justice Thakur got impressed with Waziri's knowledge and interest in Mirza Ghalib and passed an order to list the matter within a week.
The book also captures an incident when former Law Minister and Senior Advocate Shanti Bhushan had to undergo a bypass surgery. After the surgery, while filing his income tax returns, he decided to treat the expenses incurred on the surgery as a deductible expense under the Income Tax Act.
The deduction was not allowed by the income tax authorities, owing to which he preferred an appeal before the Delhi High Court. While rejecting the appeal, the Court quoted Ghalib:
"Dil-e-nadan tujhe hua kya hain akhir is dard ki dava kya hain."
(Here heart is personified. It is asked of it what ails it? What is the remedy for the malady)
The book is available on Amazon and has been rated as a best seller.
(Advocate Akriti Chaubey is an Advocate On Record at Supreme Court of India and an independent litigating professional, specialising in Arbitration)