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The moment you enter the campus of the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad, you tend to tread very carefully. There are guards stationed every two feet, and they are armed with an assortment of different rifles and sub-machine guns. Oddly enough, there is no frisking at the gate, and you don’t have to pass your bag through a metal detector. But then again, the fear of getting shot with six different kinds of bullets is more than enough to prevent you from doing anything silly inside the campus.
The buildings that house the court rooms have long corridors, the kind that tend to become a lawyer’s worst enemy during hot, unforgiving summers. One lawyer says he doesn’t feel the need to go to the gym when things get busy at court. On either side of these corridors are beautifully landscaped gardens which are worth taking pictures of. Yes, there are ‘Photography Prohibited’ signs everywhere, but surely one picture of the gardens will not hurt anybody.
Only, as soon as I reach for my camera, I notice a security guard nod his head and put his hand on the trigger of his INSAS rifle. Paranoia breeds the highest level of obedience.
Just as I am about to enter the first court, I realise I have committed a grave error. A burly guard stops me and asks me to explain myself. He is not interested in the identification I am waving at him, he just wants to know how I can have the audacity to take a water bottle into a court room.
So I enter sans water bottle, and I am stunned by what is surely one of the most breath-taking court rooms in the country. It resembles a concert arena of sorts, with its wooden interiors, lighting and gallery-style design. The room is also fairly huge; if it weren’t for the microphones, it would be close to impossible to hear the arguments being made.
A handful of guards occupy the last bench, and when they are not busy intimidating people with their guns, they are shushing the members of the general public who are seated in the last couple of rows.
As I make my way from one court room to another, I realise that numbers of the court rooms do not matter. This I find out when I stop to ask one of the lawyers, ‘Which court room is Justice so-and-so in?’ In response, she giggles and says, ‘We don’t follow the court room numbers here’ (What does that even mean?) and proceeds to give me a long set of complicated directions. This can be particularly confusing for those who are new here. For example, I could not tell a person who I was due to meet where I was. In the end, I had to ask him to look for a court room which had a pink water bottle outside.
On my way out of the fourth court room, I decide that I have had enough of the water bottle game, and try to sneak away without retrieving it. But, surely enough, the guard comes after me and thrusts the bottle in my hands, as if he has done me the biggest favour. What’s worse is that someone has clearly taken a big sip out of it.
There are two canteens on campus: one for the advocates and one for the general public. I am told that the food at both canteens can get quite monotonous, with advocates often opting to have lunch at the nearby Subway or Dominos. (Expect full-fledged canteen review soon)
Adjacent to the High Court campus is a huge auditorium that looks like a laboratory where classified experiments take place.
On the other side of the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway on which the Gujarat High Court is located, lies a building called ‘Satyamev’, that house the offices of a number of lawyers.
Among them are President of the Gujarat High Court Bar Association, Asim Pandya and one of the state’s youngest ever designated Senior Advocates, Shalin Mehta. During my stay in Ahmedabad, I also met Senior Advocate Yatin Oza and former Supreme Court judge Justice CK Thakker.
I also visited two of the state’s top law schools: Institute of Law, Nirma University and Gujarat National Law University in Gandhinagar.
At Nirma, I caught up with Director Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal, who revealed, among other things, the new system of evaluation that has been put in place at the University. The visit to GNLU, was however, disappointing. That was largely due to the fact that I had arrived on campus on a holiday, when most faculty and students were not present. The campus does look quite stunning though.
And that concludes my expedition to Rajasthan and Gujarat for this edition of LawDarshan. Stay tuned for interviews, canteen reviews and Law School Darshans to come in the days that follow.