Can Brilliance of Lawyer Obscure Facts?

Parmanand Pandey

Three days back i.e. on 18th of July 2011; I appeared before the Supreme Court of India as the counsel of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ), National Federation of Newspaper Employees (NFNE) and other Unions of Newspaper Employees in a case filed by Anand Bazar Patrika Group of Newspapers of Kolkata. It may be mentioned here that Anand Bazar Patrika group is a big group of newspapers, which publishes the largest Bengali daily, ‘Anand Bazar Patrika’, prestigious English daily ‘The Telegraph’ and the business daily, ‘Business Standard’ and one famous Bengali literary magazine. Two very famous weeklies like; Ravivar (in Hindi) and Sunday (in English) were being published from this house but their publication has been ceased for more than one and half decades.

Before the independence of the country, ‘Amrita Bazar Patrika’ (English) and ‘Jugantar’ (Bengali) were ruling the roost in the West Bengal but after the freedom was achieved Anand Bazar Patrika’s circulation jumped by leaps and bounds and within no time, it left all newspapers from West Bengal far behind. Its popularity was at zenith during the Bangladesh was in 1971, when it cudgels on behalf of more than ten million refugees, who took shelter in India to save their lives.

This newspaper has although been considered as a good paymaster for its employees. Yet, strangely, it has now filed a petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution for scrapping of the Working Journalists Act and also for setting aside the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Boards set up by the Government of India for revising the wages of the newspaper employees.
What has disturbed me a lot is not whether the Act is wrong or right, Wages fixed are high or low; but the way the arguments were advanced by a very very senior counsel of India Fali S Nariman who is considered to be an icon of the legal profession.

Mr. Nariman firstly stated that the draft Wage Board recommendations were not made available to the petitioner. This is patently wrong in the sense that the Wage Board was a tripartite panel consisting of employees, employers and government representatives. Therefore, the employers’ representatives were privy to every activity and report or recommendation of the Panel. Secondly; if reports were not available to the petitioner how and why did the petitioner assail the recommendations of the Wage Board? Thirdly; how could a petition be filed when the impugned document is not attached with it? Fourthly; it is responsibility and duty of the petitioner to first avail the report and then impugn it? All these questions prove beyond doubt that the petitioner advocate was undoubtedly not adhering to the principle of ‘do no fiddle with facts.’

But Nariman is a Nariman. Even Hon’ble judges give high credence to what he says and utters in the court. What is still more surprising is that the gravamen of the main petition is for scrapping of the Working Journalists Act but the arguments were advanced against the recommendations of the Wage Board.

I bought it to the notice of the Hon’ble Judges— Dalveer Bhanari and Deepak Verma but even then they stayed the notification for two weeks. It was all due to humungous impact of Fali Nariman that he has on the Court.

Blind faith, as they rightly say, is always wrong and should be avoided. Is there not a lesson to learn?