A Petition, My Lord!

There are books in one’s life which leave a mark. I would amend that statement. Some books come in numbers that change your world view.
I recently experienced it. Three books in succession: ‘The Justice’ by Michael Sandel, ‘Talking of Justice’ by Leila Seth, and ’10 Judgements that changed India’ by Zia Mody found way to me. And all these are simply great books which should be on ‘must read’ category of book lovers.
I would have also added Lord Denning’s ‘The Discipline of Law’ but the focus there is slightly different. Lord Denning remains my all-time favourite author, though he writes on the subject of law and justice his books are book-lovers’ choice. The great jurist’s language is simple and uses short sentences. Contrast this with VR Krishna Iyer’s and you will see what a great difference it is.

But I am digressing. Zia Mody’s book was published last year. Soli Sorabjee says in his foreword ‘The judgements described in this book continue to have a real and resounding impact on the society as a whole…… Rather than focusing on the judgements of the court, the author has presented them in context, describing the surrounding cultural and social circumstances and the subsequent reactions of the public and the State to each case, coupled with a commendable legal analysis in language that is not legalese, but reader friendly.” That is the reaction of readers so well captured.
My favourite chapters here are on Keshavanand Bharati [Basic instinct: A landmark modern constitutional jurisprudence], Shah Bano Case [Whose life is it anyway?: A flashpoint in religious fundamentalism], and The Aruna Shanbaug case [Killing me softly: The euthanasia debate in India]. I have read them repeatedly.
If Zia Mody made law and its impact on Society easy to understand, she had a companion in that mission in Leila Seth. She was the first woman to become Chief Justice of a State High Court, and was a member of the 15th Law Commission. What distinguishes her is that she worked on the Justice Verma Committee set up after the Nirbhaya case, the committee submitted its well-studied and well-written report in record time [putting many other committees to shame].

Leila Seth’s book “Talking of Justice” is a mix of excellent exposition of the impact of legal cases on society, her personal views and occasional reminiscences. That makes it very interesting. The book largely deals with girl child and women’s rights and people working on ‘diversity’ will gain some valuable insights. The book begins with a quote of Emerson ‘Every reform was once private opinion.’ The author writes about Social Action litigation, The Uniform Code towards Gender Justice, Gender sensitization of judiciary. And many other topics. With depth and insight, yet in a lucid and easy-to-comprehend manner.
And here comes the final piece.  “Justice” by Michael Sandal. Sub-titled ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ A very gripping yet somewhat ‘read-carefully’ book which gives you food for thought. And insights treasure. Anybody who begins by asking ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ can travel in the deep territories of values, philosophy and law. Perhaps many other areas too. That makes this book immensely essential reading. And I am still reading it, so more about it some other time.

These three books made my perspectives. And finally, Leila Seth wrote ‘Talking of Justice’ at the age of eighty-four. If I survive to reach that age, I pray HIM to give me the power and wisdom to write a blog at that age! I am not asking too much, My Lord!!
Vivek Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”