Rajan Jayakar is a renaissance man. The 68-year old solicitor, who hails from a family of lawyers, is an ardent art collector and has travelled the world in pursuit of his passion for art and history. He says that he has been a collector since childhood, and it was his own community’s history which led him to focus on Mumbai. .Rajan Jayakar is the man responsible for the Bombay High Court’s museum, a former court room, that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February last year. The museum, is a treasure trove of history, even containing the barrister certificates of everyone from Mahatma Gandhi to Mohammad Ali Jinnah..In this interview with Bar & Bench’s Nitish Kashyap he discusses a wide range of issues from history of the island city to Jayakar’s art collection as well as the shifting of the High Court..Nitish Kashyap: How did you get into law?.Rajan Jayakar: It’s in my blood, my grandfather was a lawyer, my father was a lawyer, I am a lawyer. I graduated from Government Law College in 1971, and joined my father’s solicitor’s firm. I did my articles with him, and became a solicitor in 1975. .Nitish Kashyap: What was the legal profession like in those days?.Rajan Jayakar: It was a quiet profession, not as competitive. Most of the time, the children whose parents were in the profession, joined it. Of course, there were outsiders as well. .The work of a solicitor was drafting, and in those days solicitors were not allowed to appear on the original side till 1976. From January 1 of 1977, that restriction was lifted. Although the solicitor exam still continues, it has no particular significance. People only go through it because of the rigorous training that you get in a solicitor firm..Nitish Kashyap: So you don’t think the exam has any relevance? .Rajan Jayakar: No, it does. It’s a tough exam, something like a chartered accountancy exam where the passing is around 5-7% and hundreds of students appear. Some people like to go through that training. If you are going out of the profession, and you apply for a job in the corporate sector, you are definitely better off than an ordinary [lawyer] applying for a job. This obviously gives you an advantage..Nitish Kashyap: How did you get into filing PILs?.Rajan Jayakar: This whole concept of PILs was not there when I joined. It came up after Justice PN Bhagwati’s judgement; that the person who files a PIL intends to serve society. Now it has obviously become a lot different, whether it is a Public Interest Litigation or Private Interest Litigation, I do not know. .Although I do not file PILs in my name, I have been lending my solicitor firm’s name as well as attending to matters. Particularly matters of the Bombay Environment Action Group, because I think they are very genuine, their preparation is very good, and there are hardly any cases that they have lost. They have taken cases against ministers, against violators of environmental laws etc. .I feel this is my little contribution to the society by being the advocate on record for them. They also have senior counsel who appear for them but it’s like a general practitioner and a surgeon. I am like a general practitioner where everything starts with me (smiles)..Nitish Kashyap: How did you become a collector and a curator?.Rajan Jayakar: That has nothing to do with my profession, it is in my nature. I always maintain that everybody is a collector. If you recount your early years, you too must have been collecting something. Then somebody might have told you or you might have realized that this is too trivial and not worth wasting your time on. And then you stopped. .But that did not happen to me. .I have been a collector right since my childhood. I used to collect matchbox labels, cigarette packets; this is in the late 50’s and 60’s when I was in school and there was no pocket money. .That’s how I started, for that I did not need any money but I had parental support. My mother was very particular that I continue with my hobbies. .Nitish Kashyap: Why the focus on Mumbai?.Rajan Jayakar: I belong to a community, the Pathare Prabhus, that came to Bombay in the 13th century. We do not have a native place, though we are supposed to have come from Gujarat to the Deccan and then from Devgiri to Mumbai in around 1296. .Although I am not a student of history, I was fascinated with the fact that we have been here for such a long time. We were here before the Mohammedans, before the Parsis. .When I was around 25 years old, I came across a copy of a thesis written by my community member in 1944. The subject of the thesis was the Pathare Prabhus of Bombay. While reading it, I realized that this history runs parallel to the city of Bombay. Then the collector in me took over and I started collecting everything that is there on the history of Bombay. Photographs, lithographs, engravings, picture post cards, books, everything. .Nitish Kashyap: How do you expand your collection?.Rajan Jayakar: I go to chor bazaar every week, I keep track of what is coming and going. In fact when I don’t visit they start calling me, kya hua sahab aate nahin ho? [Sir, why haven’t you visited us?] They know what I like, so if anything of consequence comes, they let me know..My collection of stamps was only restricted to the stamps on the letters which were received by my father, which was not really challenging, I was not very happy with what I was doing. But in the early 1990’s, I realized that collecting of legal documents and stamps related to the law like court fee act and all that – these were by themselves collectible. Then I also came to know that stamp collecting is the only organized hobby where you can participate at the state level, get a particular number of marks on the basis of your collection, and then participate in national as well as international exhibitions. .Now collection and display go together, so holding my own exhibition became a passion. Letting people know how Bombay was, how it has changed, what is left now which can be preserved for posterity – that has been my intent behind holding these exhibitions. .We did the first exhibition on the 125th anniversary of the Bombay High Court in 1988. That was a great success; the exhibition was extended twice..With Mohit Shah as the Chief Justice, we had the 150th anniversary celebrations which was again a huge success.. This is when I got the idea for a permanent museum at the High Court; Mohit Shah J was very encouraging. I even designed the grand chandelier that hangs in the central court room (Court Room 46). One of the most interesting items was an antique canon gun that had been lying in the High Court after the Fort of Bombay was demolished in 1865. I was able to trace an exact replica of the original stand for this canon gun in chor bazaar! .Nitish Kashyap: The Bombay High Court has a number of peculiar traditions including billing in gold mohurs. .Rajan Jayakar: This is from the British times; one gold mohur is equal to fifteen rupees. The practice of charging in mohurs started around 1800 when British Barristers started coming to Bombay. Their practice of charging in guineas in England was continued with local mohurs. At that time, one mohur was equivalent to 15 silver rupee coins..Nitish Kashyap: There are also plans to rename the Bombay High Court.Rajan Jayakar: I think the move is as misconceived much like changing the name of the city itself. In fact the High Court at Calcutta was called “High Court at Fort William in Bengal”. .The High Court building is a heritage property which the State Government has to maintain without any major changes. But the same sanctity is not applicable to the name of the High Court – this is not only strange but contradictory..Nitish Kashyap: The shifting of the Bombay High Court – when did you decide to intervene?.Rajan Jayakar: Initially I was not aware [of the PIL]. But then I started hearing new developments. The most intriguing part to me was that there was no voice for the litigants, and all these decisions were being taken without taking into account the opinion of the most important stakeholders, the litigants. .If you only look at the convenience [of the High Court] in terms of accessibility, then this is the most centrally located area. You have the [local trains’] western line, the harbour line [nearby]. People from all across the city can easily commute to this place..Also, I do not believe that we are utilizing the existing space judiciously. If the judges are willing for their chambers to be shifted to the annexe building then we will have a lot more space in the heritage building for more court rooms. If new judges are to be appointed we will need these court rooms. .We can also look at rebuilding the present premises of the city civil court and using that, acquire buildings which are lying vacant or are not used to their potential. For example the CTO building, the MTNL building, some part of the University of Mumbai etc. .The question is has any space consultant been consulted? Who decides that a new courtroom is to be constructed? If the building fell down, or a portion of it then you go ‘Oh its in a dilapidated condition’, but do you find out why that happened?.There has not been any point of view put forth which looks at actually retaining the existing structure, after all there is great historical importance to this building..There has not been any point of view put forth which looks at actually retaining the existing structure. After all there is great historical importance to this building. How many such heritage structures are left in this city? Former Bombay Chief Justice Sujata Manohar wrote a brilliant piece in The Hindu in favour of [preserving our] culture and heritage. .Nitish Kashyap: The bar associations have accepted the move in principle..Rajan Jayakar: I do not blame the bar associations because they have to look at their own interests. If they are being uprooted from here, then of course they will seek space in the new premises. Also this whole comparison with Lucknow bench and the new premises built there does not make sense, because we do not have such space..Nitish Kashyap: Your hopes from the future generations? .Rajan Jayakar: Well, I do know that if I don’t bequeath my collection while I am living, then my wife and my children will not know what to do with it. I am not getting any younger, my children are not interested in my collection but yes, I have my hopes pinned on my grandson! He takes a keen interest in my collection, and is very inquisitive.