Story of a GLC student’s trip to the legal power center of the country, Delhi. This article was originally published in a First Taste of Law and is being republished here.
Now we bring you a wishlist. Ever wanted to meet Shashi Tharoor to ask him about Bookless in Baghdad? Did you ever fancy a candid conversation with Ram Jethmalani? Want to listen to President Pratibha Patil share her experience of flying a fighter plane? Want to have breakfast with the President, and then go on to socialise with Fali Nariman in the evening? Well, some students from Government Law College did just that, very recently. While Dhwani Shah, a 1st Year student of the Government Law College, Mumbai can not go back in time like Hermione Granger, she can relive the experience for the readers of this blog. The program which made it possible for her to do all the things described here is unique and fairly exclusive, and to our knowledge no other college or university organizes such an event. Do you think it is the time that things changed?
It’s kind of strange, travelling with a group of people you’ve known for barely a few weeks to a city you barely know. There are some things that you are very skeptical about, and they turn out better than you could have ever imagined.
The Tour: A grand agenda
The ‘Delhi Study Tour’ organized by the Government Law College, Mumbai, is one involving a visit to the Parliament and the National Human Rights Commission, witnessing proceedings at the Supreme Court of India,interacting with dignitaries such as the President Pratibha Patil, Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah of the Delhi High Court, and stalwarts such as Shashi Tharoor, Soli Sorabjee, Ram Jethmalani, Fali Nariman, Shyam Diwan, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Milind Deora.
The selection process
Over 200 students from the five years’ law course, as well as the three years’ law course of the Government Law College, had applied for the tour. Every applicant was required to submit an essay on Section 377 (readers will recall this, as the section criminalising homosexuality, has been in controversy because of Delhi High Court holding it unconstitutional this year; the appeal before Supreme Court is pending) either as an appellant or respondent. All applicants were then called for a personal interview on the basis of which the best 24 were selected.
The journey and experience
The cool and dry weather in Delhi added some extra excitement to the trip. We stayed in Delhi for 6 days and were put up at a neat little place known as the Ginger Hotel (formerly the Rail Yatri Niwas). I am surprised that it is not over booked, considering the rates and the quality of rooms that are available.
The First Day
The first day we visited the NHRC and interacted with the senior researcher present there. We spoke on issues about human rights such as rights of homosexuals, right to privacy and the basic right of freedom of speech and expression.
Later, on the same day, we met Mr. Shyam Divan and spoke to him about the issue of Justice Dinakaran, his take on the discipline of the Bar Council and implementation of environmental laws. Mr. Divan had a certain aura and authority in his voice and we were totally in awe of him.
The next day(8th dec,’09) we visited the Parliament and witnessed the discussion on the Liberhan Report. We heard a few Parliamentarians speak and Speaker Smt. Meira Kumar had a tough time in controlling the House. I felt that what the media shows of the Parliament are a hyped up version of the reality and the actual content is never shown!
The Great Courts of Delhi
We were really lucky to meet Chief Justice Balakrishnan. Honestly, I don’t quite remember what we spoke about because my mind was just reeling with, “You are sitting just a foot away from the Chief Justice of India!” We were lucky enough to have been able to meet him, as the next day he had been admitted to the hospital on account of bad health. I solemnly swear we had absolutely nothing to do with this!
After this, we visited the Delhi High Court and the Arbitration Centre where we met Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah of the Delhi High Court, who spoke to us at length on the Naz Foundation case and other pressing socio-legal issues faced by the judiciary.
Meeting the Politicians and the Bureaucrats
On the 9th, we had an appointment with Mr Milind Deora and Mr Shashi Tharoor. It was very encouraging to see how candid they were to us, given that we are all only students in law school. In the evening, we interacted with Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad and asked him questions involving what went wrong at BJP’s end. He was very calculative in his replies but very inspiring nevertheless.
Proceedings at the Supreme Court
The next day we witnessed the Supreme Court proceedings. Being a first-year law student, this was the first proceeding I had had an opportunity to witness. Honestly, twenty minutes were not enough to understand a case. It was interesting to observe how time was allocated amongst different cases, so that all the cases scheduled for the day would be heard and so that the proceedings could move forward. The judges allotted a fixed 30 minutes for completing a case. Cases which could not be discussed within the stipulated time period were postponed to a later date, and other cases were proceeded with so that no case was left unheard for the day.
Meeting with the President
The next day’s first appointment was President Pratibha Patil. It was an unbelievable experience. Initially, it took time for the thought to sink in. We were actually going to meet the President of India in person! We were served breakfast at the Rashtrapati Bhavan early in the morning and taken to a brief tour of the place. I was amazed by its grandeur – the Rashtrapati Bhavan is the biggest residence of any Head of the State in the world. After a tour of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, we eagerly waited for the President to enter … and then the doors opened … and we saw her! During the course of the interaction we were made privy to her experiences at the Government Law College and her impression of her recent experience of the Sukhoi 30 MKI (she is the first woman head of state to fly in a fighter aircraft).
And the Lawyers
We also met Mr Fali Nariman on the same day. We spoke on past issues about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (students of law of torts would be familiar with this) and Kesavananda Bharati v. the State of Kerala (the Basic Structure case, which is the Holy Grail of constitutional law in India, as law students and practicing lawyers would vouch) and his experience during the Emergency. His sense of humour was illustrative of his humility. Mrs Dorabjee Nariman was also present at the meeting. She is a fine lady and the hospitality was excellent.
Mr Soli Sorabjee and Mr Ram Jethmalani were an absolute delight, totally candid and it was an experience interacting with these veterans. The questions asked revolved around the rate of disposal of cases, their opinion on the declaration of assets by the judges and the discipline of the Bar Council. We also asked them about their journeys so far.
Interacting with Law Firms
We had also had a sponsored dinner at Pot Pourri at Connaught Place, with the senior partners of J. Sagar Associates- Mr. and Mrs. Basu and associate Nishant Beniwal. In many senses, this was an unusual evening.
Dinners and shopping
By the end of our trip, we had seen a sizeable portion of the megacity of Delhi. We had experienced both – the local street food and the extravagant dining out places. We had visited the Delhi Haat, had a dinner at Bengali Market (famous for its chaat as connoisseurs would recall) and a fairly luxurious (and expensive) dinner at Big Chill at Khan Market.
The last day of the tour, of course, was reserved for some local shopping experience, to feel the pulse of the city. We shopped at Janpath and Connaught Place. An overwhelming feeling of nostalgia was gripping me, and I wished that the tour had lasted longer! You know, the emotional sentimental thing about how all good things come in small packages and they always end even if we wished they’d last a little more! All the pranks, a drunk somebody, the perfect weather and the most exciting interactions. But there are some things that you are very skeptical about, and they turn out better than you could have ever imagined.