- Apprentice Lawyer
Tribute to my dear friend Justice GR Udhwani
For others he was Justice GR Udhwani but to me he was Ghanshyam or sometime fondly “Ghanumal, my first friend and to an extent, my mentor in the profession of law.
Today in the morning, a shocking news flashed on my Whatsapp that Hon’ble Justice GR Udhwani was no more. Unfortunately, he lost his battle against COVID-19 in the hospital and left for heavenly abode rendering us helpless and in a pall of gloom. I could not control my tears and my throat choked. I could with great difficulty utter a few words to my wife Ragini that Ghanshyam was no more and a deep silence became the mode of expressing our emotions and feelings upon the loss of our beloved friend. I am still unable to accept his loss.
For others he was Justice GR Udhwani but to me he was Ghanshyam or sometime fondly “Ghanumal, my first friend and to an extent, my mentor in the profession of law. He was senior to me in the profession by four years. When I joined the chamber of Senior Advocate KG Vakharia in 1989, Ghanshyam had already established himself as a competent junior in the office.
Mr. Vakharia would give us the example of Ghanshyam Udhwani for his hard-work and sincerity and would ask us to try and emulate his qualities. Justice Udhwani came from a very humble background having no contacts in the profession of law. His father had a wholesale shop of sarees near Prem Darwaja in Ahmedabad. He was at that time staying in Bungalow Area of Kubernagar mostly occupied by Sindhis.
Justice Udhwani was a thoroughly honest, straight forward, simple and kind person. My colleague in office, Percy Kavina would jokingly say that he was a world apart from the other people of his community having smart mercantile qualities. Justice Udhwani had no speck of shrewdness or cunningness in him.
I have many memories of him. He used to come to my house during summer vacations and during the break hours of our office since his home was far away. I would have a nap and he would play Chess with my brother as he was fond of Chess. In my life, I have not come across a straightforward person like Justice Udhwani. He was thorough in law and with his experience as a judge in City Civil Court for a decade and a half. As High Court judge, he was also very patient in granting hearing to all, whether he a junior or a senior lawyer.
In his court, it did not matter whether a senior appeared or a newcomer. He would do justice and the outcome of the adjudication was always in accordance with the facts of the case and law. In fact, I learnt sincerity and industry from him when he was a lawyer. As a High Court judge, he was very popular among all the law practitioners since nobody would have to worry about not getting an opportunity to put forward his or her case in the best possible manner. He was a judge par excellence.
Even though he became a judge, our bond of affection and warmth continued for all these years. After he became a judge, we would meet only during official functions of the High Court or some special social occasions. We both maintained enough distance while keeping our bond intact so that there was no prejudice in favour of my client whenever I appeared before his court.
Most of the Bar members are unaware of the great bond which I and Justice Udhwani shared as individuals. His wife Madhuri and my wife Ragini get along very well and they also share the same affinity and warmth for each other. I would like to give on instance of the impartiality and the ethics Justice Udhwani used to practice as a judge. Some time back, I came to know that his son Sanjay had joined legal profession and started practice.
Since I and Justice Udhwani used to maintain distance after he became a judge, I had no opportunity to meet Sanjay. It so happened that one day, when I went to the chamber of Justice Udhawani for inviting him for my daughter’s marriage, I complained to him that he did not tell me that his son had joined the law practice and that I did not even know who he was.
Since it was a lunch time for some reason Sanjay was there to give a tiffin to Justice Udhwani but was in the anteroom. So, he called Sanjay and introduced him to me for the first time. Today most of the members of our Bar are unaware that the son of Justice Udhwani is practicing in the High Court. This instance is relevant to point out the quality and the character Justice Udhwani possessed that he had not taken an advantage of his judgeship to solicit work even indirectly for his son or to establish him in the profession of law.
Such a thing rarely happens these days. Upon my insistence, he postponed his winter vacation trip to attend my daughter's wedding. This was the love and affection which we shared.
I am happy that I got to meet such a wonderful man as Justice Udhwani whose memory I will cherish for times to come. By his untimely death I have lost my bosom friend and the legal fraternity, a humane judge.
My heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Madhuri Udhwani, Sanjay and the younger son of Ghanshaym. The vacuum created by Ghanshyam's departure is difficult to fill but let his memory stay as a beacon to guide all of us. May his soul rest in peace.
Asim Pandya is a Senior Advocate practicing at the Gujarat High Court and former President of the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association.