If there is a global warming, could there be a legal warming, too? Yes, it could just be possible. It depends…depends on the context.
The monsoon eluding even as June was fast ticking away, we had everything excruciatingly hot here at Bhubaneswar. Moving on the road could be so much a torture! The tarmac radiated from below, the sun above was mercilessly fierce and there were clouds of fumes from every side. Leave the effect of the dusty air aside; it was just to be endured in all seasons and at all places. The air-conditioner of the cab went ineffective; it only pushed the hot air inside. Ordinarily, people would postpone their outing under such a risky hour, but I had a need, a strictly legal one at that, and hence unavoidable.
I reached the court premises at a time when it was already midday. It was not late by any reckoning, rather the right time to visit a government office giving sufficient margin for the late-coming proclivities of government officials. Otherwise, I was ready with the papers, typed and photocopied at home, so that there would be no need for me to go from place to place in search of professional scribes and photocopiers. My job was precise: I was to say on oath before a magistrate that my land was without an encroachment. Yet I wondered why the authorities should insist on it when they themselves could do the field-level check by the plethora of land officials at their command. Probably they did not believe their own officials. Nor would they believe me. They would believe only an advocate to identify me so that my credential to speak the truth would be established! So, the truth, in order to be officially believable, has to be filtered. It was as simple as that.
Fine, I would not mind hiring an advocate if it was that essential, but where could I find one of those legal know-alls? The entire court premises had none of them. As if a city had been cleared off the beggars on the wake of a visit of an international bigwig!
The place seemed weird to me. I felt the government was up to some kind of experimentation. Aha! With no advocates crowding the premises, now truth would not be subjected to a filtering process and hence identification of advocates would be a thing of the past.
Then I went straight to a magistrate sitting in his room with a harassed look. He was also not spared by the insolent heat wave.
'Sir, if you could be kind enough to sign my affidavit. The land authorities want me to say under oath that my land hasn't been encroached,' I almost entreated before the magistrate.
'That's right, but who's your advocate?' the magistrate started perusing the text of my papers right away.
'Sir, the thing is…there's no advocate on the premises,' I replied maintaining my ingratiating tone.
The magistrate who was a man of my age turned to look at me. 'Strange, how could there be court premises without an advocate?'
I did not reply his query which was only a rhetorical one. Snubbed but not vanquished, I sheepishly came out with my papers to give another try. The heat wave was unabated, going from strength to strength. I felt like drinking something cold even if my sore throat was unwilling to withstand further onslaught of chill. Before I could decide anything I was before a kiosk, ordering a bottle of those black beverages.
'Friend, could you tell me why there're no advocates around,' I asked the vendor.
'There're a lot here. Who says there's none? In fact today they've all discarded their black coats. I understand that's your confusion, isn't it?' the vendor had a smirk on his face.
Then he hollered somebody. A clean-shaven fellow in white shirt reached there in no moments. As if an attentive chauffeur, he did not like to miss the first call of the car-hailer.
'Yeah, I'll take one hundred rupees if you want me to put my signature only. If you want me to go before the magistrate, then I'll charge extra, say two hundred…and not a rupee less,' the advocate was sweating from his sideburns and eyebrows. He was clearly businesslike and I now felt myself in the middle of a sellers' market.
'But why? Why should you charge a hundred rupees extra just to go before the magistrate? Isn't it your job?' I asked in a voice that unmistakably showed my irritation.
The advocate smiled.
'Look, I'd not charge anything extra but what to do? I've to wear this black coat and appear before the magistrate. By the by, do you know what's the temperature now? It is cool forty-six degree Celsius!'
Cool forty-six degree Celsius! I realized what he meant. The poor fellow in black coat was even more harassed than the traffic police. Here the difference was between the black and the white! An advocate was to live up to the impossible demand of the law.
Poor me! I should have understood that. How could an advocate discard his black coat? It was just for legal warming!
A. N. Nanda