News

May the Force be with you! Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed bids farewell to Delhi HC [Read speech]

Nalini Sharma

Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed
Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed

The Delhi High Court today organized a full-court reference to bid farewell to Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed after his appointment as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir got confirmed earlier this week.

A jam packed Court no. 1 saw tears, laughter and a whole lot of applause from everyone present during the ceremony.

The function began with Chief Justice G Rohini addressing the gathering, followed by speeches from ASG Sanjay Jain, DHCBA President Kirti Uppal, Advocate Rahul Mehra, and of course, Justice Ahmed himself.

An emotional Justice Ahmed broke down multiple times during his speech, which was played on the Delhi High Court screens continuously even after the function had concluded.

You can read the whole speech by Justice Ahmed here –

“It has been a tough day for me. Emotions have been running wild. But the speech is written and I hope I can deliver it.

Over fourteen years have gone now since I became a judge of this great Court. It seems like a long time but so engrossing and so satisfying has been my experience that this time has sped by in what appears to be a blink of an eye.

Every day that I’ve spent in this court has given meaning to my life. Time always… sorry.

*Justice Ahmed tears up*

This is what I feared. And it has happened. When you fear something it happens.

*Composes himself*

Time always ticks and it is now my turn to leave as it has been for many before me and will be for more after me. But before I do, I have a few things to say. 

What are we, judges and lawyers, here for? Ultimately, beyond the fees and the salaries and career progression and the fame, our lives ought to be and are fashioned by the unending quest for justice – that elusive and difficult goal which is yearned for by the wronged, the downtrodden, the needy, the poor, the marginalized and the innocent. 

Yes, we have a remarkable constitution. It guarantees justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to all citizens of this country. But this guarantee is often missing in reality. This is where we, judges and lawyers, have an extremely important role to play to ensure that when citizens knock the doors of the Court, they get justice and leave with a belief that the constitutional guarantees are palpable and real and not virtual or illusory.

As judges, we endeavour to uphold the rule of law and ensure that it prevails through our writs, judgments, orders and decrees. But, as I have said elsewhere, we must understand that the rule of law means different things to different people. Jurists and other legal experts attempted defining it. We must, however, try and see what it means to ordinary people. 

For a young girl about to be molested and raped, it means her cry for help is heeded and that she is saved. For a twelve-year-old labouring in a coal mine, it means that he has given his childhood, a good education and opportunity to compete with all else. For a family closeted in their house for the fear of an angry mob, slamming the front door which is about to break open, it means that its frantic calls to the number 100 are instantly responded to and all its members are safe. So when we decide cases and in our endeavour to do justice, we ought to view the rule of law from the perspective of the person who needs it. I feel that only then will we able to do complete justice. 

This Court has made remarkable progress in the field of dispensing justice. It is today the premier high court in India.

*Loud applause by the audience*

Some may say that this amounts to self-praise as I belong to this Court, but isn’t it true?

Anyhow, this could only be achieved by the co-operation and hard work of the Bench and the Bar. My colleagues on the bench have excelled and so has the Bar. But we must not be satisfied by what we have achieved and must continue to strive higher. There is so much more that we can do. We can reduce our arrears, we can reduce our timeline for cases and particularly for criminal cases. We can have better case management so as to minimize wastage of time. We can make our systems more transparent, more litigant friendly and so on. 

The success of this Court is also due in large measure to the excellent staff which also includes the Registry. The Court staff and the personal staff of the judges work tirelessly and for long hours behind the scenes to ensure that the system works.

As most of you are aware, this Court is perhaps the only High Court in the country where a matter filed on one day is placed for hearing on the very next day and in some urgent cases, on the very same day. This is possible only because of the speed and efficiency of the Registry. 

Technology is advancing exponentially. What seemed impossible a decade or so ago appears to be mundane today. The world, in particular the younger generation is rapidly adopting the technologies of this digital age. The judiciary also needs to keep pace with these developments lest it be left behind. We need to adopt and adapt these technologies for greater efficiency, greater transparency and greater accountability. Take for example, the time spent in process survey. By utilizing digital processes, geotagged and time stamped photographs of the persons on whom the service is affected and the real time tracking of the process servers, we can easily cut down 3-6 months from the timeline of each case. There are many more ways in which technology can be utilized to hasten the process of justice without impinging on its quality.

The Delhi High Court is a front runner in this area. We have eleven e-courts and out of these, three jurisdictions – that is, taxation, arbitration and company law – are completely paperless from filing to judgment. This needs to be replicated in respect of all courts for all jurisdictions. We have started well and have also run the middle race, but we need to cross the finish line. I hope and I’m sure that my brother and sister judges will be able to achieve this in the near future. Of course, some may huff and puff with the introduction of newer technology, but the zeal and determination will take them and along with them the whole court through.

Advocacy is an art as much as its a science. In my time in this High Court – both as an advocate and a judge, I have noticed the growing quality of the Bar. I have, however, a few requests to make. First of all, senior members of the Bar must encourage their juniors to muster courage to argue cases and should guide them when they are in difficulty. Secondly, the younger advocates should, while being fearless, temper their arguments with politeness and civility. Thirdly, it must be said that there is no substitute for hard work to master the facts and the law. And finally, I request all advocates to ensure that they do not do something or say something in Court which results in the loss of their credibility. Once lost, it is hard, if not impossible, to regain.  

I must, as it has almost become a habit with me, narrate an anecdote about Mullah Nasiruddin – the well-known and whimsical Sufi master. One day at the tea house he announced to all present that he could see in the dark. One youngster immediately remarked – “but Mullah just last night I saw you walking down the street and you had a lantern in your hand”. Unfazed, Nasiruddin answered – “the lantern was not for me but for others so that they don’t bump into me.”

*Audience laughs*

However, there is a higher moral of the story and it is that the enlightened do not need light for themselves but they ought to show light to others by sharing their learning and knowledge with them. This applies to the experienced and senior members of the Bar. I say this with the objective of strengthening the Bar which in turn would provide men and women of legal acumen and compassion to take up the Bench of the court in the future.

Before I end, I must acknowledge the blessings of my parents, who are no more. And I must make a confession in open court that I am a judge because of…

*Justice Ahmed tears up*

… because of my wife. 

*Loud applause from the audience*

Without her, I would not be what I am. Her organizational skills have no parallel and because of that, I have had the time to think and write …

*Takes a pause, trying to compose himself*

…and be a judge. 

I’m sorry for all this (referring to him getting emotional).

My daughter, my son-in-law, my son and my daughter-in-law have been extremely supportive and at times critical, but supportive, which has helped me immensely. In this, I think my son takes the largest share of criticism. 

*Looks at his son and smiles*

My sister is here from the USA, my brother is here from Singapore, they have encouraged me throughout my life. I can also never forget my friends Kailash Vasdev and Parijat Sinha who have had a great hand in shaping my destiny. I also thank all my colleagues at the Bench and the bar, my friends and members of my family and the entire High Court staff and members of the media. 

In particular, I express my gratitude to my personal staff – Mr. Sunil Dutt, the private secretary who has been with me for thirteen years, Mr. Manoj Kapoor court master, Ms. Sunita Rawat and Kulbhushan Singh who have recently been promoted as private secretaries, so I had the privilege of having three private secretaries. Mr. Vikas, the assistant court master, Mr. Arvind Thakur restorer, Mr. Hira Singh the usher whom the people usually call the usherer, Mr. Harish Rawat the chauffeur, Mr. S. Mohammed, Mr. Madan Singh and Mr. Jagmohan Singh. 

In Alice in Wonderland, in the course of the trial concerning the theft of the tarts, the White Rabbit, putting on his spectacles asked of the King who was the judge, “where shall I begin, please Your Majesty?” The king said gravely “begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end, then stop.”

Well, I have now come to the end and must stop. But not before thanking you all once again for taking time out to bid me farewell. And as my five and a half-year-old Star Wars fixated grandson would have me say – may the force be with you. Jai Hind!

*Deafening applause from the audience along with a standing ovation*

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news
www.barandbench.com