29 Jan-04 Feb, 2013
small world
The Curious Case of the Ghostly Lawyers

It’s difficult to fathom how citizens are supposed to consult an advocate who is not really in any position to dispense legal advice. Peruse the ‘updated’ list of senior advocates published on the Supreme Court website on 17 December 2012, and you will find quite a few who are no longer alive.

Suspicion begins to arise when you see that the initial names of senior advocates provided by the Supreme Court Registry were designated with that title in the period 1966- 1976. To become a ‘senior’, an advocate must be 45 years of age. Logically speaking, if an advocate was designated ‘senior’ in the 1960s, a number of them should already be over a hundred years old. For instance, former SC judge P Govinda Menon is still listed as a senior advocate, though he retired in 1956. Technically, he is 112 years old now.

Even eminent jurist Vepa P Sarathi is listed on the updated list of available senior counsels. He was designated a ‘senior’ in 1976 and his death in January 2012 was collectively mourned by the legal community. Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice TVR Tatachari, also finds mention in this list even though he passed away in June 2001. A full examination of all 311 in the list is likely to throw up more such names.

The Supreme Court Registry’s system of removing senior advocates from its list depends on intimation received from family members or the concerned bar association. “Often an advocate may simply decide to give up his practice, pack up his belongings and move to his native village. He may not inform the concerned registry or anyone at all, and, therefore, technically continues to hold the designation long after,” says Arvind Rathod, a practising advocate at the Bombay High Court.

Subhash Agarwal, the RTI activist who discovered this error, rightly says that the list should only contain names of those who are currently available for providing legal counsel. “The Registry should correct such grave errors by removing the names of advocates who have passed away,” he says.

Take Two
The Story of Their Experiments with Truth
What the screening of a one-minute montage on Thackeray before a movie says about your standing in India

If you got to a multiplex in Mumbai, then you will soon get acquainted with Devendra Khandelwal. He makes the public service films that are aired before the movie starts. You will remember these clips forever because of the absolute absence of drama in them. It’s easy to produce a bad work of art, but to make something devoid of art is talent. For example, in Khandelwal’s film, there will be a man throwing garbage on the streets and someone will tell him not to. That’s it. It is so bland that it could be farce.

Khandelwal is not the only man to assault your senses when all you want to do is watch a movie. There are several short messages on tobacco consumption. These are an antithesis to the Khandelwal fare. Here, a piece of sponge is wrung and black liquid comes out of it with a voiceover saying that if you are a smoker, this is your lung. Another film has a cancer patient with a tube attached to his face regretting the tobacco he chewed, and later, a line on screen tells you he died in 2009.

Recently, for five days, without the consent of anyone who buys tickets, 200 theatres agreed to air a one-minute montage of Bal Thackeray. It was to mark his birth anniversary. There was nothing special about the number. It was not his 100th anniversary or 75th anniversary. If he had been alive, he would be 87. The one-minute fleeting memorial had been thrust on the theatre owners by a Shiv Sena affiliated union, Bharatiya Chitrapat Sena. The montage tells you that you are in Thackeray’s debt for what he did for Maharashtra. Unlike Khandelwal’s movies, it has some production values, like fade-ins, fade-outs, a background ditty of piano keys. If you don’t consider yourself in Thackeray’s everlasting debt, it’s rather pointless to show you all this. The Bharatiya Chitrapat Sena’s name appears in the credits at the end. There are also images of Uddhav Thackeray. This is good free advertisement, yet another avatar of the extortion that the Sena has made such an art out of.

In addition to Khandelwal, tobacco consumption, the Thackeray montage, a man who buys a ticket also has to see commercials and stand up when the national anthem is sung. The anthem was forced onto Mumbai’s theatres 10 years ago. Some have been stupid enough to be brave and not stand in attention. Random strangers have pilloried them and then put up Facebook updates of how they taught the traitor a lesson. After a decade of such conditioning, even those who know that it is absurd stand up. You can spot them by how they fiddle with their phones or munch something.

Note that when something stupid is couched under the label of ‘patriotism’, how easily it is swallowed. When a Shiv Sainik says ‘My view of the world must be your view of the world’, secularists find it offensive. But many of them would also find it offensive if someone told them ‘Your patriotism is not my patriotism’. Or that patriotism is just another form of superstition because it’s blind. It’s a tool to brainwash the citizen to make him feel that he is relentlessly in debt to the country. And as an individual, he must suffer for this abstract idea—the ‘nation’.

This is also the force at work that makes the 10 minutes before a movie not his own, but of arbitrary agencies seeking to coerce their agendas onto his consciousness. Take the tobacco consumption clip. It is good that it is shown. But then there’s this question: why tobacco consumption? Why not any of the hundreds of other social evils. Film stars smoke on screen and set a bad example. But they also race cars, so why not have a short message on the dangers of rash driving with a mutilated accident victim? Women are raped in movies. Why not a short message on the advisability of not raping?

Is there a measure by which there is a list of priorities to decide what is shown? If there is, then what makes the national anthem and tobacco clip head the queue? Shouldn’t there at least be a shuffling of order once in a while? Tobacco for two months, then alcohol, then rape, a one-minute montage for one political party each month. There is really no logic by which these experiments are done on you to make you a model citizen. The loudest voice owns your attention.

Starbucks: Slower but Still Steady

The serpentine lines at Starbucks outlets in Mumbai have shortened. In fact, even sales have come down a little bit. But a café employee indicates that business, while having tapered, is healthy. “Initially, we were [serving coffee and snacks] worth almost Rs 10 lakh a day,” says an attendant at the chain’s Horniman Circle outlet in Mumbai. “Now it’s about Rs 5–7 lakh.” Next on Starbucks’ agenda is increasing the number of cafés in the city. Mumbai recently got its fourth Starbucks café, at Hiranandani Gardens in Powai. The company plans to open 17 more in the city. Coffee lovers are thrilled, even if their wallets need frequent ATM refills.