On the last working day of Hon’ble Chief Justice A P Sahi, the Madras High Court assembled to bid adieu to him.
It was informed by the Advocate General Vijay Narayan, that during the tenure of CJ A P Sahi, he disposed of 4548 cases.
He added that lawyers who appeared before Chief Justice Sahi not only got their case decided but also got a sense of satisfaction.
He further said that
“One Could See that this Judge (Chief Justice A P Sahi) lived and breathed the law. For him, every case was a voyage, an adventure of learning. One could see the excitement and gleam in his eyes when he discovered a new point… “
After the Advocate General, Hon’ble Chief Justice started his speech, which is reproduced here in under:
My Esteemed Colleagues on the Bench, The Learned Advocate General, All The Office Bearers of the respective Bar Associations, Members of The Registry, The Entire Staff of the High Court and all my Family Members who have assembled here.
I would specially thank Mr. Sankar Narayanan, who has written a beautiful poetic note to honor me with encomiums which I may not have deserved. But still, I think I have completed this part of the journey with full satisfaction and with no regrets. There is a feeling of fulfillment in me that I have served to the best of my capacity and ability and the oath that I had taken. But that was not possible unless I had the company of such an august brethren at Allahabad, at Patna and now at the end of my career at Madras.
Madras is a great place and with its High Court as an institution which is a magnificent embodiment of justice. I am thankful to Sister P.T.Asha, who today in the morning enriched my knowledge about the vibrations that are present in this entire area because it is believed that the entire structure of the High Court is constructed in an area where there used to exist temples and, therefore, the said continuity of a temple with its priests is a real honor for any Judge to sit in this High Court and particularly a Chief Justice, as I said yesterday, would be a pilgrimage.
Nurturing at Allahabad
I would begin by saying that I began my career not with any certainty. After completing my graduation I had no other options left except to join law and then I joined law and started wondering as to how I would weighed myself through. Fortunately, my Revered Senior, late Mr. R.N.Singh, was one of those leading lawyers who was overburdened with cases with, when I joined chambers, it was almost a thousand files current running and with ten thousand files already disposed of. So I was served in this profession with a platter and I would say it was almost being born in the profession with a silver spoon because I did not have the occasion to struggle as a lawyer which is one of the major components of a practice which a lawyer definitely needs. Nonetheless, under his guidance, I went around for 19 years and by the time I was elevated it was just hard labor and passion with five writ petitions, at least, and a couple of second appeals, being drafted every day. This background which I got was the first step in augmenting, whatever we call in our legal profession, the legal acumen. The tricks of the trade, as you say, and the wit and humor of court craft, understanding of Judges and apprehending the worst of confronting, either from the Bench or from the Bar, was all a great experience in the Allahabad High Court.
I was fortunately also to have the opportunity to argue before Judges who had been transferred from the Calcutta High Court in the days of the policy then and they were some of the best Judges and I must confess today, when I am departing, that it was their recognition of my, whatever little talent I had, that I reached the Bench. My colleagues who are still there, they were a great source of inspiration and help and without their accompaniment, their challenges, their competitive attitude, I would not have been able to excel myself. I take this opportunity today to thank all of them who are responsible for molding me and allowing me to pave a way that ultimately led me to occupy the Bench.
I narrated this because I am reminded of one of the American Judges who said – that the greatest challenge in life is what people say you cannot do. Most of the things worth doing in life were declared impossible before they were done. This is exactly what I feel today that there were declarations that one would succeed or may not succeed or land up at an uncertain place in life. But inspite of those declarations and the rumors of impossibilities, I am here what I am and I wish every lawyer, big or small, is able to complete this journey in this way.
Overwhelmed by the Gesture of Madras High Court Bench and Bar
I was really overwhelmed with the outstanding farewell given by the Madurai Bar and by the Madras Bar yesterday. One of my colleagues, Justice P.N.Prakash, even published his farewell in advance in the CTC and it is worth reading which is piece of poetry. And I just now mentioned the letter of Mr. Sankar Narayanan. I think these are blessings and these are my real earnings. All my colleagues, in one way or the other, wished me good and many of them showered me with some of the choicest books that they felt would be read by me. I can’t forget Brother Parthivan and Brother Shesai as well as Brother G.R.Swaminathan, who with their outstanding erudition have made me learn the language of the law and the tricks of the trade have been taught to me by Brother Venketesh Anand. There are many of my colleagues who have taught me something and I have learnt from them. The patient and very serious composition of Brother Kothari and Brother Satya Narayana, the extreme humble personality of Brother Subaiya, the cheerful personality of Brother Sundresh, the learned company of Brother Shivgyanam, and I would continue to say about everybody but I will be failing in my duty that my Sisters on the Bench, if they have not outclassed my male colleagues, they have certainly established a benchmark by telling the entire world that Female Judges, if elevated, will match no less than their male counterparts.
Little Word about Lawyers
A little word about lawyers. With the competition and with the growth of law there is a lot of rush in Courts. But there is always a search by the litigant for the best of the lawyer. All lawyers, big and small, have the greatest opportunity to serve the public at large. But I must tell you that there is an equal rising disbelief and inherent hesitation when one goes to engage a lawyer. The other side of the coin is that lawyers and doctors they are embodiments of faith. When a client entrusts a brief he does it with a sense that he will achieve justice, that is the end product that he wishes to receive. It is in this context that a lawyer’s duty is most responsible and in order to dispel any such disbelief I think a disciplined conduct is essential. You see we all live with prejudices and every human being has a prejudice. Broadly, as I have understood, there are two types of prejudices, prejudice of interest and prejudice of ignorance. You have to avoid both these two. And, therefore, when it comes to lawyers they have to shed their prejudices because they also have to perform not a biased but an impartial duty to achieve what is known as justice. Yet they have to serve the interest of the litigant and the client.
This opportunity can be availed of with a discipline which I recently learnt and I am trying to compare as an illustration.
A Visit to Shri Harikota
When I went to Sriharikota on a short visit to meet the anxiety of my little grandson who sits here more interested in spacecraft. When I took rounds of the launching pads and I met the scientists the first thing that I witnessed was their humility. They were far more academically superior than what I was. Yet the humility that they displayed is the first trait that a lawyer should try to inculcate. The second what I found was their simplicity. Hair going haywire with slippers on and with no formal dress. They just look like very simple people with no airs, with no egos and what I found was they took us around with such passion as if they have received somebody as a special guest.
Why there is no Nobel for Law?
At that point I wondered, and all my Brothers will think over it, particularly who meet such things in their judgments, please ponder. And I will also request the Learned ASGI and Advocate General to think over it and then discuss it among themselves, why has the subject of law not been assigned the Nobel Prize. We come up with so much original thoughts, with so much of dealing with life itself, but why is it that social sciences, economics, literature, they all get their share of Nobel Prize, why not law? Please think over it and if you are able to make some suggestion on this I would be glad to join you on this issue. And that is what the thought came to me when I was witnessing all this at Sriharikota.
I believe, and that is subject to correction by anyone, it is the passion of scientists, their absolute devotion to their subject and the sense of achievement that can be perceived thereafter, that appears to be the reason for Nobel Prizes being reserved for them. Is the legal profession and entire fraternity today embalmed with such devotion, passion or erudition so as to entitle them to claim a place amongst the Nobel Prize winners.
The third thing that I learnt from Sriharikota was that the scientists were explaining the entire launch pad and the system over there through health related terms. They would say that this pillar or this particular structure is the umbilical cord of the rocket and it is after all the health conditions, as prescribed, are suited for perfection then only the button is pressed for the launch of the vehicle. Not only this, they also used that we perform a complete surgery which is amputating the project in the event the trajectory of the rocket fails and which has to be done in 45 seconds. I asked them you have used such terms, how do you manage to plan and execute such wonders of science. Then they started explaining it in human terms. They said look here, these pillars are round in shape because we don’t believe in edges. Edges obstruct and which they said were nothing else but egos and prejudices. Then I asked them why are you making these comparisons. Then they said and with great pride and with such a sense of pride that is really commendable, they said all our scientists, senior scientists, directors, chairmen, who have retired, they still come to us and we invite them whenever we are about to undertake a very major project and they come here with the same passion without any egos, without any prejudices, just to see that we do not fail. Now this is the attitude of the peers at Sriharikota.
I take this opportunity to draw this illustration in our legal fraternity just to remind all our junior lawyers that all activity, whatever be it, whether it is your drafting, whether it is your delivery, whether it is your art of persuasion, should not be without insight. You have to measure yourself first and then take a step forward. You have to get blessed first. And as I said yesterday in my address to the Madras Bar Association reminding the Court of Justice Homes, that the young ones know the rules but it is the old ones who know the exceptions.
Well this might be amusing to some of us, but this is the truth of life.
I hope that my journey in Madras has been comfortable to one and all.
And now I have to begin with my thanks giving before I conclude.
Thanks to Family
Beginning with the Almighty, who brought me in this world, with all my ancestors, all my family members including my better half and my grandchildren, all my in-laws and particularly my mother-in-law who is present here, my sister and my sister-in-law who are present here, they have been a great and a valuable support at every moment of my life. Not only they, but all those who were involved with me, the Clerks who worked with me as a Lawyer, the drivers the domestics, each one of them were responsible for my rising to this position because had I been involved myself with their duties may be I would not have reached here.
I thank all my colleagues at the Bar at Allahabad, Patna. I thank all my colleagues on the Bench at Allahabad and at Patna. I in particular thank Dr. Justice B.N.Chauhan, who has been my mentor at Allahabad. I will never forget the blessings of Dr. Justice D.Y.Chandrachud as my Chief Justice who was very much responsible for everything that I have achieved after he became my Chief Justice. I would be failing in my duty to thank Hon’ble Mr. Justice A.N.Verma of the Allahabad High Court who was the first one to moot my name for elevation before Hon’ble Justice Tarun Chatterji, who was kind enough to recommend me for elevation. There are host of others who have contributed to this, both at the Bar and on the Bench.
I would then thank those unsung heroes who were responsible for many things that they did. They are my Chartered Accountant, Mr. Rishi Kohli, the publishers of many journals who provided me with the best of assistance. The book sellers who were kind enough to inform me of every possible good book that would add to my personality. And there is a lot to thank the entire community that came together to bid me best wishes when I was elevated to the Bench.
Sense of Satisfaction
I come to the Members of the Bar at Madras. They, with their, again it is not an eulogy, it is a sense of satisfaction, a genuine and a sincere appreciation, they are the epitome of excellence of whatever I have seen of the Bar in all the three High Courts where I have been. Here why I say so is that lawyers here have the unique ability of offering multiple alternatives when they argue their straightforward points. But nonetheless the Bench here and with all the Judges that we have on the Bench, they have the capacity to mold every such argument into a pragmatic and a learned judgment. Lawyers, it is said that the Bar is the mother of the Bench. This is really true in that sense which I have witnessed at Madras. Young and old all can match each other and they can satisfy and persuade any Bench and I could see, rather I have heard also, that lawyers directly connecting themselves to the Supreme Court and showing their par excellence matching their arguments with the best of the Advocates of the Supreme Court. The pandemic has given this opportunity to many of our lawyers to show their excellence.
I have to thank everybody. There is no one who has not done a little thing for me. But there is a special thanks which I have to mention and that is because you have to have a pillar in the family who can support you in an unstinting way leaving you unconcerned about what is happening in your house. That is my elder brother who has not been able to make it here and ofcourse to some extent my son who has taken over my responsibilities. My daughter-in-laws, with their background and with their support, have been a real sense of what you call a very satisfied life, a very satisfied family life, even though I was just now mentioning to Sister Asha that, rather quoting Ruth Ginsberg, late Justice of the Supreme Court, whose mother-in-law passed on to her that you see the secret of a good married and happy life is that you should be learn to be deaf at times. I am happy and content. My level of satisfaction is not less that of a saint. I have not yet been able to understand the Almighty but this legal fraternity and my entire career has taught me a lot and I think that at the end of my mortal innings I will be able to achieve that end.
Thanks to Registry
I now come to thank the entire Registry of this High Court which has been continuously working round the clock in this pandemic and it is they who made me feel that I have the moral responsibility to remain in the High Court. Thank you very much.
I would like to thank my personal staff, court staff, my drivers and all those who have served me and fed me at the Chief Justice’s residence.
I would once again thank all those who have been responsible for my safe stay at Madras including the doctors who treated me at the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Hospital and I must thank Mr. Kanappan, who was day in and day out over there. The Registrar liasoning had been continuously and consciously keeping track of not only my health but the health of all Judges and their families. I must thank her for her attentive role that she has played.
Steno Taught Me New English Word
One of my staff is outstanding and that is Mr. Shashi, who with his most able, I would say talent of stenography. Yesterday, he taught me an English word which I used and I shared it with a couple of Judges which I had to use in an official communication. I thank him because he is an asset for the High Court.
There are many other people whom I have to thank and if I have forgotten please excuse me.
But in the end I would ask for forgiveness if I have done anything wrong.