Saturday, 15 October 2016

Book review: Legal Confidential

Legal Confidential: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer
Ranjeev C Dubey
Penguin Books India 2015

If like me, you believed that the legal system has been designed to help the wronged, uphold dharma, and deliver justice to one and all, think again.  This book reveals the truth behind some of the notorious underhand deals that take place in the great Indian courts.

That our courts frequently fail to deliver justice to the aggrieved was a given, and I wrote as much in my book, Angst.  But just how bad the system is, and the reasons why the legal system is bereft of any moral principles is revealed in this no-holds-barred account by Dubey.  

The shortcomings of the legal system is laid threadbare even as Dubey recounts his own personal struggle with the system.  Beginning with his struggling days at the Tees Hazari courts in Delhi, moving on to Dubey's liaison with the managers in the law firm that he is a part of, his struggles thereof, and his eventual exit from the company, it is one startling revelation after another.

Dubey does not mince words, and reveals the nature of the characters he encounters during his legal career, and their misdemeanours as he interprets them.

So we get to learn about the way Tees Hazari courts function, the role of the key players inside of a trial court, the corruption inherent in the legal system, the debauchery that some practitioners unhesitatingly indulge in, the unscrupulous nature of the legal system, the dog-eat-dog competitive nature amongst lawyers, and several examples of legal proceedings involving national, multinational and government agencies. 

Dubey declares, rather ominously, that he learnt soon enough that justice didn't necessarily have a great deal to do with legal system.

And consider this damning excerpt from the book:
When the courts did function - about half the time they should have - I had myself a crash course in amoral pragmatism.  I was bewildered by the idea that the legal community rarely looked at the rights and wrongs of any legal issue.  As far as lawyers were concerned, there was the law, and then there were the loopholes.  If they could fit the facts of their case into a loophole, well that was great.  If they could not, they could change the facts to fit the loophole.  When it comes to helping your client win a point, the truth had no space between two cynical lawyers and a bewildered court.  No one tarried a moment before lying through their teeth, posturing about things they knew were untrue, or putting on an emotional drama based on complete fabrications.  Within two years, I had become an existential nihilist: there was no objective truth in the world, only random data reinterpreted and packaged into a court case.  I had discovered the ethical void.     
It is this ethical void that is probably responsible for all the cases of injustice that we get to see in the country: be it in the case of Jessica Lal, Nirbhaya, or the pampered superstar getting away with shooting animals and running over people.  

The writing throughout the book has an irreverent, pithy, devil-may-care tone.  Apart from the introductory note by the author, there are no other appendices, references, or acknowledgements, which sets the book apart from the usual narrative non-fictional accounts.

It would have been interesting to know about the role Dubey's family played in his struggles, which could have shed some light on just what goes on in the personal lives of legal eagles.

Towards the end, when you are screaming at Dubey not to listen to his chief tormentors, the narrative ends rather abruptly leaving you wondering if he did leave them to launch his own law firm.  Does this mean there a sequel in the offing?

Also, is that his son on the cover page?

Image source:,204,203,200_.jpg

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