The politics and personal beliefs of a lawyer cannot trump Constitutional values, Justice S Muralidhar of the Punjab and Haryana High Court emphasised yesterday, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, during a virtual discussion hosted by the Delhi High Court Women Lawyers' forum. .After recounting the inspiring journeys of legal stalwarts such as Dakshayini Velayudhan, Justice Anna Chandy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Dr BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi himself, Justice Muralidhar highlighted,."You must embrace the Constitution. You must practice those Constitutional values in your personal sphere. You cannot have one behaviour in a personal sphere and another behaviour professionally. It will show up. Those hypocrisies will weaken your stance. You will lose your moral authority or legitimacy to represent causes if you persist in that dichotomy."."Whatever be your political beliefs, whatever be your personal religious beliefs, as a lawyer you cannot have a position that is contrary to what the Constitutional values speak.... Whatever be the cause you are fighting for, whatever be the client you representing - there is a certain basic, minimum stance one should take and that should embrace these Constitutional values."Justice S Muralidhar.He also noted that the key to lasting law reform is to do it from within. Therefore, he cautioned,"You cannot afford to be cynical, you cannot say the system is broken down or useless because there are several people waiting for justice. You cannot give up. You are the system. You should believe that, as much as you believe in the rule of law, the Constitution.".Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora also delivered an address in the discussion, which focused on the theme, "Forging your own path."."Some people are born to be judges because their hearts are in the right place", Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora said, as she commenced her talk by recalling Justice Muralidhar's lawyer days, including his days of practice out of a Maruti omni van in lieu of an office, up till his appointment as a judge..The Strange Case of the Omni Van Lawyer.The discussion was moderated by Advocates Mrinalini Sen and Saumya Tandon..Remembering other icons who "forged their own path".At the outset, Justice Muralidhar informed that rather than speak of his journey, he would like to talk on certain personalities who have engaged in the law and inspired him. .The first of such personalities was Dakshayini Velayudhan, one of 15 women members of the Constituent Assembly and the only woman from a Scheduled Caste Community in the assembly. An astute Gandhian, Justice Muralidhar recounted that Velayudhan married in a ceremony comprising of Gandhi, his wife Kasturba and a leper priest. .Following an education gained through scholarships and a career as a Government school teacher, Velayudhan was eventually appointed a member of the Constituent Assembly, where she spoke forcefully on matters concerning caste discrimination. .She is stated to have said that we can't expect a Constitution without a clause addressing untouchability, Justice Muralidhar recounted. Not much is known of her, but she should be remembered and one should draw inspiration from her, the Judge added. .Justice Anna Chandy, the first woman High Court judge in the country, was another icon Justice Muralidhar sought to highlight in his talk. Remarking that she was one of the earliest known feminists, Justice Muralidhar recalled how Justice Chandy stood her ground when a fellow legislator opposed her proposal for proportional reservations for women in Government jobs. ."From the elaborate petition, it is clear that the plaintiff’s immediate demand is to ban all efforts by women to gain employment, on the grounds that they are a bunch of creatures created for the domestic pleasures of men and that their lives outside the hallowed kitchen-temples will harm familial happiness.”Justice Anna Chandy.In opposition to a law permitting men to excersise conjugal rights without a woman's consent, Justice Chandy is also stated to have questioned, "How many women have been condemned to depths of feelings of inferiority because of the foolish idea that women’s body is an instrument for the pleasure of men?“.The path-breaking journey of the recently deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg of the US Supreme Court was also highlighted by Justice Muralidhar. He recounted how Justice Ginsberg fought against discrimination for both men and women, because she understood that discrimination hurts everyone..Referring to the powerful dissents authorited by the iconic judge, Justice Muralidhar remarked that it goes to show that the dissents that written while on the Supreme Court are equally valuable and equally important as the majority judgment. Dissents can inspire legislation, he added. .Mahatma Gandhi was recounted as being a very successful lawyer, whose first case ended in a settlement. ."The true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder."MK Gandhi is stated to have said. .He was just 24 years at the time, Justice Muralidhar narrated. He went on to recount how Gandhi, as one of the few coloured lawyers in Durban, South Africa, took up difficult cases and difficult positions. Later, when he shifted to Johannesburg, Gandhi was not allowed to be part of the Bar as he was coloured. He gave up a successful practice as a barrister and settled to be an attorney..In this phase, Justice Muralidhar recounted how Gandhi started to take up test litigation as a device to challenge unjust laws. To cite an example, Justice Muralidhar informed the audience of how Gandhi challenged the segregation of white people and coloured people when it came to entry to electric tram cars:."He brought that test litigation to the lowest of the courts - the Magistrate's court. He was extremely persistent in his convictions and beliefs. In a way, the personal became the political. What he brought to the courts were political issues and he was conscious that he was addressing a larger audience. But he also drew on the community.. he had a wealthy Indian businessman buy a ticket and get into tram car that they were not permitted to ride. So, somehow he got the entire community involved.".The lessons gleaned from Gandhi's life and writings, Justice Muralidhar observed, included the need for deep reading, engaging in civil debate with the opposition and learning to step back and evaluate a position objectively if things don't work out the way one thought it would. .Taking the lesson forward, Justice Muralidhar spoke of how intense study and personal experience shaped Dr BR Ambedkar. ."He encountered discrimination. He had a very deep understanding of the caste divisions, studied the scripts very carefully. Even before you crticise, you need to study. Gaining knowledge through reading, learning through life's experiences ... Unless a person had studied the Manusmriti and other scriptures and texts so carefully, he could not have had such an insightful analysis of how the caste structure works in this country.".Pertinently, Justice Muralidhar also noted that Dr Ambedkar had prophesied that putting provisions against caste discrimination in the Constitution is not going to be enough to end the system. Justice Muralidhar observed, "It is going to be a lifelong engagement. His prophecy is true. Even today , we are far from stating we have overcome untouchability in this country. It is still a huge blot on Indian society. It still shames us, every now and then.".Continuing engagement with issues as they crop is key, Justice Muralidhar said as he concluded his address. In particular, the judge queried after how many transgender lawyers are there in the bar, adding that there are specific issues that they will continue to face. .On this note, he urged the Delhi High Court women lawyers' forum to also introspect and address internal discrimination, pointing out that even women, as a whole, are not a homogenous group.