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The retired chief justice of India spoke to a distinguished audience at a function to mark his farewell in New Delhi

~By Meha Mathur

“I was an average man and I continue to be an ordinary person. I somehow reached here,” said a humble Justice TS Thakur, who retired as chief justice of India on January 3. He was speaking at the gathering of legal professionals at his farewell party hosted by the Confederation of Indian Bar at the India Habitat Centre, in New Delhi, after his retirement.

The comments made by Justice Thakur were in response to Justice JS Khehar, the new chief justice of India, who said that he was immensely jealous of Thakur for his achievements.

Describing his journey, Justice Thakur said that young lawyers get caught up with challenges in their respective courts, and by the time they overcome these—say, in two decades—and think of moving to the Mecca of legal profession, Supreme Court, they get disheartened by the high level of competitiveness. “The thought of stiffer challenges and greater lawyers dissuades people,” he pointed out.

“When I thought of coming to Delhi, there were two options, of shifting to Bar and start practicing here, or joining the Bench.”

“I came to Delhi in 1971 and sat in the visitor’s gallery of the Supreme Court. I saw Soli Sorabjee arguing a case in a nine-judge bench, and the judges pouncing on him. His brilliance amazed me.”

“I felt inadequate standing next to them. So I backed out and chose the less hazardous and competitive route of joining the Bench.”

Justice Thakur said that the Bar was the intellectual resource for the Bench and good judgments were written because the Bar provided good intellectual inputs.

In a speech peppered with humor, Justice Thakur said young lawyers who were starting their careers should observe their seniors to learn the tricks of the trade. And they should study the judge as a human, to get favorable judgments, he advised.

CJI JS Khehar was full of praise for Justice Thakur in his speech
CJI JS Khehar was full of praise for Justice Thakur in his speech

Justice Thakur disclosed that to make a mark on him, the best trick would have been to quote Ghalib’s couplets. “A couplet is worth a 1,000 words. I was waiting in the court for some advocate to quote Ghalib or Mir to get a favorable judgment. But that never happened…. You may get it if you put a smile on a judge’s face, make him happy.”

On a serious note, Justice Thakur said it would help lawyers if they imbibed the Gita’s teaching of focusing on work and leaving the worry of fruit, i.e. monetary returns. He said the teachings of Gita came at a time of conflict, and inspire us to conduct ourselves in the face of confrontation. He added that he believed in an inclusive society where everyone could profess one’s religion, but the depth of philosophy that the Gita presents is unparalleled. “How do you detach yourself from the fruits of action”, is the crux, he said, even for lawyers in the court. As public officers, they should detach themselves from worries of monetary rewards.

Among his regrets, he rued that he had never got an opportunity to hear Nani Palkhiwala argue a case.

Earlier, Justice Khehar was full of praise for Justice Thakur in his speech. “I am very jealous of you… (It’s the) patience that you have that I lack” He complimented Justice Thakur for having heard the Sahara case 32 times and the BCCI case 31 times. “Bless me for some patience.”

He also commented on the wonderful and painstaking judgments that Justice Thakur had given. “God has given him 48 hours, and me only 24 hours. Please give me a little bit of that.”

Among those present in the gathering were Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Kurien Joseph and Soli Sorabjee.

Lead picture: Former CJI TS Thakur speaking at his farewell function. Photo: APN News

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