The Obiter Truth: Diary of a virtual court goer

The Obiter Truth is a catalogue of everyday experiences in the life of a young lawyer hoping to find humour in the bizarre and sense in the chaos. A hat tip to the comical struggles of young lawyers everywhere.
Manini Brar
Manini Brar

Dear Diary,

Wednesday, 10 July 2020

I don’t like to tell you about bad things. Every day is a new lesson in the poem of life. As they say, ‘bad times are a true test of good character’. So let me tell you that my character is truly being tested by virtual hearings.

I do not know what is going on. Sometimes, I am not able to join a call. Other times, I join a call but wish I had not because the learned senior is asking me things on the microphone which I want to tell him in his ear. Other other times, I am happily joining the call but I am being muted in the middle of my submissions. This muting-unmuting business is most serious. In court, his lordship has to hear me even if he is trying to ignore me. He may dismiss my arguments, but I am comfortable. I make hundred percent sure he hears my every word, I speak so loudly. But what good is my loudness on mute? It is a violation of natural justice, I tell you. A man has a right to be heard.

Thursday, 31 July 2020

The great Delhi heat is not so bad this year. I guess there are far more bad things going on in the world. Maybe mother nature has decided to be kind to us after all the Corona stuff. Not so for their lordships, sadly.

It may be humbly submitted to them that routine technical issues are not a conspiracy against the courts. If counsel is not audible, or cannot be seen, or has a bad connection, it is not intentional, mostly. Today, your lordship got angry because I was seeing my case file on the computer screen instead of looking at him through the webcam. You may pull up the learned senior who was smoking pipe first. I felt like saying. Of course, I didn’t. Better to just smile and apologise.

Many issues may be sorted if training is given to the court administration. Their lordships may be assured that they will not get Corona if they move closer to the computer. They may also deem fit to increase the volume of a Webex call through the ‘input volume’ function. I have attended five hearings this month, and I have no idea what fell from behind their lordships’ masks.

I am toh doing my best to avoid network issues. I am going to office to attend hearings. Internet at home is not reliable. When I go to office and see how many colleagues are there, talking and mingling with each other, I wonder what is the point of virtual hearings after all? Judges may be safe, that is a different matter, but what will they do if all the lawyers die of Corona?

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Normally, I would be unhappy that Independence Day is on a Saturday because it means one less court holiday. But the days are running into each other since Corona, so I am confused. I have decided to get a 40 Mbps connection at home. After that, every day will be a holiday, god willing.

I know it is selfish to think about holidays in these times, dear diary. I have heard some of my esteemed colleagues in other courts just don’t have work. It is very sad. I am grateful to god that I am still surviving in Delhi, far away from my beloved Kharagpur, and my humble boat is afloat. I shall not tempt fate by gloating. As they say, ‘what goes around comes around’.

Friday, 21 August 2020

You won’t believe, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court has got Corona! People are saying it is because the local bar opposed virtual hearings as they did not want to share work with outside lawyers. I am sorry that people don’t have work, but is this the way? What is the point of risking people’s life for a few matters, I tell you?! Anyway now High Court will be suspended. So what was the point?

You may be thinking I am saying all this because I want more work from other courts, because before I said I hated virtual hearings. I will not lie to you. I am always happy to get more and more work with god’s blessings. But now there is also no choice other than virtual hearings. What to do?

Maybe I exaggerated a little last time. The mute-unmute option is not that bad when the opposing counsel is on mute. Ha ha! This week I argued a full petition on whatsapp call which the answering respondent was not able to join. It was delightful, I tell you! I have not had such good arguments in my 12 years of practice.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Today morning I ate a boiled egg and had tea in my shorts between hearings. One hearing in Shimla and one in Chandigarh, both from home. Dear diary, I feel like a new man. No need to wear a blazer and go to office in the heat. No traffic. No client calls on the bike. I get up araam se and make my breakfast. I am becoming good at telling what time my matters will come before particular courts, so I log in accordingly and save a lot of time. I am relaxed, and I am getting many things done.

Technical issues are also becoming less. Problems are still there of course. What I can control, I control. What I can’t, I don’t think about it. Like most courts outside Delhi don’t even have a fixed roster. Every hearing I am arguing the same matter afresh before a different lordship. No way to tell what may happen. What pleases one lordship does not please the other. But I can’t control it. So I let it go. Slowly I am becoming more flexible in life. What they call as ‘chilled’. I am chilled.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Diwali will be here soon but Corona is not going anywhere. Sometimes I miss court days. So many fine moments. Walking into a court to see seniors argue. Watching connected matters without any special permission. Chatting with friends in the library. It was my whole life. My friends, family, work, society. Everything was in the court only. When I think that so many months have passed since I saw a court, I feel strange. But then I tell myself that it is a small price to pay for the freedom of practicing in shorts. Ha ha! What to tell you, dear diary. As they say, ‘hawa ka rukh badalte der nahi lagti’ (The wind changes sides in no time).

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